Flu Alert: 5 Surprising Facts You Should Know

Premier Health Now

As deaths from this year’s flu virus are making headlines almost daily, is there anything you haven’t heard about this widespread illness? Premier Health Now talked with Aaron Block, MD, MPH, Franklin Family Practice, who addresses some flu questions you may not have considered.

1. How long can flu germs live on surfaces and hands? 

A. While influenza can live on hard surfaces (such as door knobs and tables) for up to 24 hours, it can only last about 20 minutes on soft materials and fabrics. Additionally, influenza only survives for 15 minutes on a person’s hand or skin.

2. Does the antiviral medicine Tamiflu work to help combat other viruses besides flu?

A. Tamiflu works to block a specific enzyme necessary for the flu virus to replicate itself in your body and to reduce the symptoms of the flu. Since Tamiflu targets such a specific enzyme, it will not work for any other viruses that commonly infect humans.

3. Should my child get a booster shot for flu?

A. There is no need for a flu booster shot. It’s good for the entire flu season, even if your child received a shot in September. The only exception is with children under age 3, who receive their flu vaccine in two half-doses, given at least four weeks apart.

4. What is adenovirus and should I be worried about it?

A. Adenovirus is a respiratory infection that can look a lot like flu. It causes symptoms including runny nose, congestion, cough, fever and sore throat. There is no vaccine for adenovirus. It can make you miserable but rarely causes serious, life-threatening illness.

5. Is it too late to get the flu shot?

A. You may be surprised to learn that the flu season can extend into late April or early May, so it’s still worth it to get your flu shot. It takes about two weeks for your body to get maximum protection from the flu vaccine. Dr. Block ends with the simple but powerful reminder on protecting yourself from flu: “Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands.”