PNFM News & Articles
The Influenza Virus and the Flu Vaccine
Dr. Daniel posted on December 6th, 2016
What is Influenza?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is an infection cause by a virus known as the influenza virus. This is a type of respiratory illness commonly caused by influenza virus A and B. The most common symptoms include but are not limited to cough, fevers, chills and body aches/ headaches. Also other upper respiratory symptoms such as runny nose, congestion and sore throat may also be present. Severe cases of the flu can also lead to respiratory illness such as pneumonia which can lead to hospitalization.
How can I be tested for the flu?
What is the best form of treatment?
The symptoms of the flu can last for at least one to two weeks. Supportive management is recommended, and can include:
- Acetaminophen — Can be used as needed for fevers and chronic body aches. You should be free of fevers (temperature > 100.4 F) for at least 24 hours without the use of anti-fever medications (such as acetaminophen) before returning to work or school.
- Anti-viral medications — anti-viral medications are beneficial if given early (within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms). Hence, it is important to see your doctor as early as possible.
- Fluids — hydration is key. Increasing overall electrolytes with drinks such as Gatorade, gingerale is also beneficial.
- Diet — advance diet as tolerated. If loss of appetite is initially present, you can start taking foods such as toast, chicken broth, tea, bananas.
- Rest — get as much rest as you possibly can.
- Hygiene — always wash your hands with soap and water.
What is the flu vaccine?
Flu vaccine is a preventative measure that can help you from getting the flu. It is a vaccine which is given annually during flu season. The two main types of flu vaccines are the inactivated type and the live attenuated. The inactivated type contains components of dead viral strains while the attenuated form contains weak degraded forms of the virus. Neither of these can cause you to get the flu, and instead helps you build antibodies in your immune system which are used to fight the virus.
Why should I get the flu vaccine every year?
The influenza viruses are always mutating and evolving. As such, the strains that were common in the past may not be the same as the ones developing today. In addition, the body’s immune response from the vaccine decreases with time. The yearly flu vaccine is constantly altered to adjust with the changing virus.
Influenza can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia. People who are “healthy” can also acquire the flu and get very sick from it. By getting the flu vaccine, you decrease the chances of passing the flu on to others.
What are the common reactions that occur with the flu vaccine?
Though rare, common reactions include fevers, pain and redness at sight of injection. There is absolutely no association or link between vaccinations and development of autism in children. Severe allergic reactions are rare. If you have an egg allergy you can still take the flu vaccine or ask for the egg- free versions of the flu vaccine.
Who should get the flu vaccine?:
All individuals from the age of 6 months and older should get an annual flu shot. Pregnant females are also recommended to take the annual flu shot as it is beneficial for them and the fetus. High risk populations (higher chance of getting the flu) should be vaccinated annually. These include but are not limited to those who have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer, and receiving immunosuppressive therapy.