With cold and flu season quickly approaching, here is a helpful fact and fiction on the Flu virus.
1. The seasonal flu is annoying but harmless.
FALSE – the flu is anything but harmless. According to WebMD, the seasonal flu hospitalizes 200,000 people in the United States every year. Of those, it kills about 36,000. For comparison, that is close to the number of women killed by breast cancer each year, and more than twice the number of people killed by AIDS.
2. Swine flu is transmitted by pork products.
FALSE – The craze of Mad Cow Disease and the ability for the disease to be found in virtually all tissues throughout the body of cattle caused a widespread scare in beef eaters. However, unlike Mad Cow Disease, Swine Flu is not transmitted through the consumption of pork.
3. The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu.
TRUE – The flu vaccination contains dead virus, which cannot infect you.
4. There is no treatment for the flu.
FALSE – There are two known medications used for the treatment of Flu. One, called Oseltamivir, comes in pill form and is commonly sold under the trade name Tamiflu. The other medication is an inhalant and known as Zanamivir. It is sold under the trade name Relenza. It is recommended that medication is taken within 48 hours from the initial onset of flu symptoms.
5. Antibiotics can fight the flu.
FALSE – The seasonal flu and swine flu are not caused by bacteria; they are caused by a virus. Antibiotics only fight infections caused by bacteria, so in essence antibiotics have no effect on the flu. However it is believed that many co-infections, which are bacterial infections occurring due to your weakened immune system, could benefit from the use of antibiotics. Common co-infections include bronchitis, ear infections, sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), and most commonly, pneumonia.
6. The flu is dangerous for both the elderly and younger.
TRUE – While it is true that the elderly are more likely to have more serious health complications or die from the seasonal flu, the flu can pose a serious health risk for anyone, at any age. Here are some statistics: 90% of H1N1 swine flu deaths have been in people under the age of 65, while 90% of seasonal flu deaths were in the elderly. At extreme risk for the seasonal flu include children under the age of 2 – who have the highest hospitalization rates.
7. “Stomach flu” is not a form of influenza.
TRUE – Gastrointestinal viruses are commonly called “stomach flu”, but actually have no connection to the influenza virus. A great way to determine whether you have the flu: if you suffer vomiting and diarrhea but have no fever or body aches then it is likely you do not have the flu. However, it is believed that one of the potential symptoms of flu among children is vomiting or diarrhea, although it is rare – and even rarer in adults.
8. If you get the flu, you can’t get it again during that same flu season.
FALSE – During any flu season, there are typically two strains in circulation; Type A and Type B Influenza. It is possible that you could become infected with one strain and then the other. It is still recommended that even after full recovery from one bout against the flu, that you get vaccinated to prevent re-infection.
9. If you’re young and healthy, you don’t need to worry about getting the vaccine.
FALSE – It is always recommended that everyone get the flu vaccine. It is better to avoid the flu if possible, for your sake and to protect your loved ones who might not have the vaccine.
10. You can’t skip years between flu vaccinations.
TRUE – The strains of flu that are dominant during flu season change every single year. Thus, researchers have to develop a brand new vaccine every year to combat the new strains.
11. Vaccines are not dangerous.
TRUE – This is true, despite rising concerns of the ingredient thimerosal and its link to developmental disorders in children. Thimerosal-free flu vaccines are available due to this concern.
12. Cold weather causes the flu.
FALSE – There is a common misconception that it is possible to get the flu or the common cold from staying out in cold weather. However, experts attribute the rise and fall of flu season to the natural cycle of the virus, although this is still a subject of debate. One possible explanation for increased flu and cold rates during the winter season may be the increased amount of people staying indoors and being in close contact with one another.
13. If you haven’t gotten the seasonal flu vaccine by November, you should still get vaccinated.
TRUE – Flu does not often hit its peak until February or sometimes as late as March. Flu vaccines are available until December or January, so generally, a flu shot during the Winter months will prove to spare you a lot of ill days.