Fighting Flu Fables: Understanding Facts Can Save Lives 

Misconceptions can keep individuals from making wise decisions about their health

DAYTON, Ohio (September 10, 2013) – Each year, new strains of the influenza virus can emerge as well as the number of myths and misconceptions about the disease itself.

Unfortunately, myths about the flu can prevent individuals from taking steps to help prevent it. A person’s decision to get vaccinated is perhaps the most important step in reducing the risk of contracting the disease and spreading it to others, said Nicholas Davis, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician who practices at Centerville Family Medicine.

Myth: You can get the flu from the flu shot – “This is one of the biggest misconceptions out there,” Dr. Davis said. “You can not get the flu from the flu shot.”

The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated, or killed, which means they cannot cause infection. Flu vaccine manufacturers kill the viruses used in the vaccine during the process of making it, and batches of the flu vaccine are tested to make sure they are safe, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Some individuals may experience a reaction to the flu vaccine such as a low grade fever and aches. If these occur, they usually begin soon after the shot and last only one to two days. It’s important to realize that the most common reactions people have to the vaccine are still considerably less severe than the symptoms caused by the actual virus, the CDC said.

Myth: The flu shot doesn’t work – How well the flu vaccine works can vary widely from season to season. The CDC states two important factors that play a role in how well the vaccine works in a person: The characteristics of the person (their health and age) and how well that year’s vaccine is “matched” with the flu viruses that are actually circulating. According to the CDC there are substantial benefits during flu seasons when the vaccine is accurately matched with the viruses that are infecting individuals.

Myth: The flu is annoying, but harmless – The flu can be deadly and should be treated seriously. In mid-January, the 2012-2013 flu season had hit its height. At that time, the CDC reported more than 8.3 percent of all deaths nationwide were due to the flu – a statistic that officially classified the season as an epidemic. About 90 percent of those deaths were of adults age 65 or older. Still, some cases involved individuals who were healthy and young.

“Every year, people die from complications from the flu,” Dr. Davis said. “Normally, it will only be a serious threat to the elderly and the very young, but there are those exceptions.”

Myth: There is no treatment for the flu – Patients who are diagnosed with the flu within 72 hours of getting it can be treated with an antiviral medication that can only be prescribed by their doctor. Many times this treatment is reserved for those who are high-risk, but can be given to normally healthy individuals who have a severe case of the flu. These medications can help alleviate the severity of the symptoms and shorten the time in which the individual deals with them. They can also prevent serious flu-related complications such as pneumonia. For someone with a high-risk medical condition treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness resulting in a hospital stay.

“The medicine should be used for those who are very, very sick with the flu, those who have to be hospitalized for the flu or those who have high-risk problems such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease,” Dr. Davis said.
“That’s why it is important for those with high-risk problems to see their doctor as soon as they begin experiencing any symptoms of the flu.”

People May Say This: “I have the stomach flu” – “I hear people say they have the stomach flu or sinus flu or whatever kind of flu they want to call it,” Davis said. “There are hundreds or thousands of viral infections, but influenza is the flu.”

According to the CDC, many people use the term “stomach flu” to describe illnesses with nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, but these symptoms can be caused by many different viruses, bacteria or even parasites. Vomiting, diarrhea and feeling sick to your stomach can be related to the flu, but are rarely the main symptoms of actual influenza. Likewise, a bad common cold is not the flu either. It may share similar symptoms – such as sore throat and upper respiratory issues – but it rarely includes the extreme aches and high fever associated with the flu virus, Dr. Davis said.

To learn more about the flu virus and vaccinations visit

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