Flu vs. flu: what kind do I have?

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By Alison Meyer, APRN, CNP

 

Right now in Minnesota, the flu season has reached peak numbers, including hospitalizations and deaths. As a result, there have been concerns raised about the flu vaccine and its effectiveness.

One of the common misconceptions I have heard is that the vaccine is given to prevent the stomach flu (gastroenteritis). This is not true as it is only used for preventing influenza.

What’s the difference, you might ask? Despite both being called the flu, influenza and the stomach flu are different viruses.Doctor holding a card with Flu Season., medical concept

The stomach flu is just as its name suggests, an illness that infects your stomach and intestines. Influenza is a respiratory illness. While complications can happen with the stomach flu, influenza is much more likely to cause serious side effects.

Certain symptoms may overlap, but for the most part, they have defining features.

 

You might have the stomach flu if:

  • You experience nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, diarrhea or low fever
  • Symptoms only last for a day or two

You might have influenza if:

  • You experience high fever, coughing, congestion, body aches or fatigue
  • Symptoms last one week or longer

I’ve also heard other concerns from community members related to influenza and the vaccine.

 

Is it too late to get a flu shot?

Although flu season has reached its peak in Minnesota, it’s not too late to get vaccinated, as the season could last for many more weeks. Take note, however, that the Sick boy with the flu with thermometer laying in bed and mother hand taking temperature. Mother checking temperature of her sick son who has thermometer in his mouth. vaccine takes a couple weeks to build up your immune system, so you are at risk of encountering an infected individual and catching the virus in that time.  Even so, by getting the vaccine now, you may be able to lessen symptoms and the risk of complications if you should become ill or prevent the virus altogether.

 

Will I get the flu from the vaccine?

Though you could experience mild side effects such as fever or pain at the injection site, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine. Click here to read a past Tri Living Well blog with more on this subject.

 

How effective is the vaccine?

The effectiveness of the vaccine changes every year because influenza itself constantly changes. Flu migration patterns across the world are extensively researched each year to estimate which strains of the virus will be most prevalent in the coming season. To ensure the vaccine is readily available before the flu season, it must be manufactured well in advance, which leaves room for the virus to mutate. For this reason, there is a potential for a bad match.

So far this season, the CDC reports that the vaccine is 36 perfect effective at preventing influenza, as noted in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Though this number might seem low, reports by the CDC show that vaccine effectiveness can vary between 40 and 60 percent in seasons where there is a good vaccine/virus match.Young man suffering from the flu with cold and coughing.

There is still enough evidence this season to suggest getting the flu vaccine can be beneficial. Not only are there minimal risks, but any protection is better than no protection at all.

 

CDC Statistics for the 2017-2018 season:

  • Total hospitalizations in Minnesota as of Feb. 10 are 4,271 compared to 3,738 in the 2016-2017 season.
  • A total of 84 pediatric deaths were reported as of Feb. 10. Among those, only 26 percent of children who were eligible for the vaccine received it.
  • A new study found that vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 65 percent among healthy children.
  • The median age of those hospitalized in Minnesota is 74.

 

About the Author: Alison Meyer is an advanced practice registered nurse and certified nurse practitioner at TCHC’s Bertha Clinic. She takes a special interest in pediatrics, women’s health, and health promotion and disease prevention. Alison and her husband, Jeremy, reside in Hewitt and have two children, Elsie and Harrison.


Flu Season is Near: Why You Should Get a Flu Shot Today

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By: Amy Severson, FNP, APRN

Have you gotten your flu shot for this upcoming winter season? Influenza, otherwise commonly known as the flu, is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death.

flushot1The Center of Disease Control (CDC) states:

  • Between 1976 and 2007, flu-associated deaths ranged from 3,000 – 49,000 people.
  • In recent years, 80 – 90% of flu-related deaths occurred in people 65 years and older.
  • Flu vaccine is recommended for nearly everyone starting at 6 months of age.
  • If an expectant mom gets a flu shot during pregnancy, the vaccine also helps protect her baby during its first six months of life.

Flu activity typically begins in the fall months and peaks in January and February, though depending on the season, it can last until May. The CDC recommends getting an annual seasonal flu vaccine to best prevent getting the flu, and not spread it to others. The more people get covered, the less flu we will see in our communities.

A lot of patients ask me, “When is the best time to get a flu shot?”

Since it can take one to two weeks for the flu vaccine to become effective, it’s best to get vaccinated in the month of October if possible. Though Federal Health Officials say it’s better to get a shot anytime, then skip the vaccine altogether.  For the 2016-2017 season, CDC recommends getting a flu shot, and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Unfortunately, CDC studies found in the past few years, FluMist hasn’t protected against certain influenza strains as well as the flu shot. For this reason, FluMist will not be available this season until more studies are conducted to figure out the reason why this is.

Get your flu shot disease ill illness healthy health doctor

Why bother with getting a flu shot?

The Center for Disease Control states that a flu vaccine can reduce the risk of getting the flu by 50 – 60% when given at the optimal time. So do yourself and your neighbor a favor, and get a flu shot this fall!

Upcoming Area 2016 Flu Shot Clinics:

Tri-County Health Care will be hosting a Flu Shot Clinic at each one of our clinics in the month of October. Pre-registration is encouraged, but not required. Refreshments will be served.

Ottertail: October 14 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-367-6262

Wadena: October 18 – 7 – 8:30 a.m. 218-631-1100

Henning: October 19 – 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. 218-583-2953

Verndale: October 24 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-445-5990

Sebeka: October 26 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-837-5333

Wadena: October 27 – 5:30 – 7 p.m. 218-631-1100

Bertha: October 28 – 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. 218-924-2250

To get more information about these upcoming clinics click here.

 

Amy Severson, APRN, CNP

Amy Severson, APRN, CNP

 

About the Author: Amy has worked for TCHC for the past 14 years, the last nine years at the Henning Medical Clinic.  She feels privileged to work in the town she was raised in, and take care of families she’s known her whole life. She lives with her husband Eric on East Battle Lake with their three children; Ethan, age 14, Emma, age 12, and Elliot, age 8.  In her time away from the clinic, you’ll find her at Ottertail Central football games and supporting the Henning Hornets in volleyball and basketball.  She also is the head of the youth group at her church.

 

 

 

 


The information and opinions expressed in this article are the opinions of the author, and are not designed to constitute advice or recommendations as to any disease, ailment or physical condition. You should not act or rely solely upon any information contained in these articles without seeking the advice of your personal physician.