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MYTH OR FACT? – WHAT IS THE TRUTH BEHIND FLU SEASON?

October 21, 2013

Truth MythEach year many myths surround influenza and the decision whether or not to get vaccinated. In order to make the best and most informed decision whether or not to get the flu shot, it is important to understand what information is based on fact, and what is a common misperception or “myth”. Here are five of the most common myths about the flu and flu vaccine:

Myth #1:  The flu vaccine can give you the flu.     FALSE

The flu vaccine contains only deactivated or “dead” influenza virus. This means that the vaccination against the flue cannot cause you to catch influenza. Influenza nasal sprays may be referred to as “live attenuated influenza vaccines” as they do contain live flu virus, however it is important to note that these viruses are engineered to remove the parts of the virus that actually make people sick. The reason this myth is still around is because people often mistake the side effects of the vaccine (such as a runny nose or sore throat lasting for days) as them having caught the flu.

Myth #2: The flu is annoying but it’s harmless.  FALSE

As stated in our first blog “If you think flu season is coming up…you’re right!”,
people commonly mistake the “stomach flu” and the common cold as influenza. In reality influenza is much more serious than either of these conditions. The flu
will not only sideline you from school or work for up to two weeks, influenza hospitalizes 200, 000 people/year in the U.S, and it kills almost the same number of people per year as breast cancer kills! Influenza is more than annoying… It is potentially deadly.

Myth #3: People who are young & healthy don’t need to worry about getting vaccinated against the flu.   FALSE

It's Cool flu shotWhile it is true that a young and healthy person will likely fully recover after the flu, no one is protected against influenza without the getting the flu shot.
Being young and healthy does not make you immune to the harsh symptoms of the flu or how long you will suffer from it. If you do not receive the flu vaccine you’re at greater risk of catching the flu, meaning you are more likely to suffer from sudden onset fever, coughing, headaches, sore throat, runny nose and extreme fatigue for up to two weeks! Students and staff need to be aware that catching the flu will mean missing numerous days of both school and work. This can all easily be avoided by getting the flu shot! Another important reason for individuals to get vaccinated is that influenza is easily transmitted to your loved ones. Even if you are healthy, your young children, chronically ill family members or friends, and the elderly have a greater risk of catching the flu, suffering from its symptoms, and are at greater risk of actually dying from the flu!

Myth #4: Flu shot protects me against influenza for years.   FALSE

As stated in our second blog “How is the flu vaccine made? Is it safe?”, the flu virus undergoes seasonal genetic drifts that change the identity of the virus each flu season, and allow it to go undetected by your immune system. Vaccination against the flu is specifically targeted at the strains of the influenza virus that are believed to circulate during this flu season only. This means that the immunity you received from being exposed to the flu or getting a flu vaccine in previous years will not be effective in the next flu season (or in following years).

Myth #5: The flu shot is the only way to protect myself from the flu. FALSE

Each year researchers do their best to design the influenza vaccine to target the most common strains of influenza circulating in the world. Sadly, this does not mean that the strains the vaccine protects you against will be the strains that you actually encounter-you may still get the flu even though you got the flu shot. One of the major benefits of getting vaccinated against influenza is that you may only suffer  mild to moderate flu symptoms rather than severe symptoms as a result of the protection you do receive from the flu shot! It is also very important to wash your hands often, cover your cough, and avoid individuals who appear sick to protect yourself as the influenza virus spreads easily through coughing, touching and sneezing. By keeping your hands clean and away from your face and mouth you can also decrease your risk of getting the flu.

For more information concerning the flu and influenza vaccination check out the
previously posted influenza blogs on the RRC Wellness Blog page, or visit WebMD to learn about more myths.

For dates and times of flu clinics held at RRC please visit the Health Services webstie for more information and to download the needed form to take with you to the clinic. Clinics start at Stevenson Aviation Oct 22, NDC Oct 23,24,25, EDC Nov 1 and LTC Nov 7,8. There is no cost for getting the flu vaccine.

From Health Services Practicum Nursing Students Alexis and Thomas