October Blog: Flu 101 Facts and Myths

According to the CDC, between 15 and 62 million people get the flu each year, and the virus causes 200,000 hospitalizations. Perhaps because the flu is so common, misinformation about the virus and its vaccines are, too. It’s time to set the record straight.

Myth: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.

Fact: Flu vaccines are safe and cannot make you sick. Depending on which type of flu vaccine you receive, the virus is either dormant or altered, so it cannot harm you.

Myth: You do not need the flu vaccine.

Fact: If you are young and healthy, coming down with the flu may be uncomfortable but it is usually not life-threatening. However, the flu virus is quite contagious and can spread even before you develop symptoms, meaning you may pass it to people who are at risk without knowing it. High-risk populations include children younger than age 5, the elderly, pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems. Getting vaccinated protects you and others.

Myth: People with egg allergies cannot receive the flu vaccine.

Fact: Traditionally, the flu vaccine was prepared in eggs, and there was a slight chance that people with extreme allergic responses to eggs could have bad reactions to it. The FDA recently approved two new flu vaccines that do not use eggs in the virus preparation process. They are called Flublok and Flucelvax. If you have an egg allergy, talk with your primary care physician about receiving one of these new types of vaccines.

Myth: It is too late to take the vaccine.

Fact: When it comes to the flu vaccine, it’s better late than never. Cases of the flu may peak in January or February, but flu season sometimes lasts through May. It is also possible to get the flu more than once each season because multiple strands are often active at the same time.

Myth: You only need to be vaccinated against the flu once.

Fact: The flu virus is constantly changing and so are flu vaccines. The flu vaccine is reformulated each year to guard against the latest strains. That means everyone who is approved to receive the flu vaccine should do so each year to be protected from the latest types.

Myth: The flu virus can cause “stomach flu.”

Fact: While nausea and diarrhea sometimes accompany the flu, especially in children, the condition commonly referred to as the stomach flu is actually called viral gastroenteritis. The flu vaccine does not treat or prevent gastroenteritis.

Many Summit Medical Group practice sites have flu vaccine available. Check with your primary care physician and get vaccinated before the flu finds you.