TVHC Blog

Teton Valley Health Care's blog

Flu is in the news

Erin Prissel, MD

Erin Prissel, MD

By Dr. Erin Prissel

Most people who live in this valley love winter and the multiple outdoor opportunities that are available following an epic snow storm. We wake up every morning, check the weather, and adjust our day if possible. Of course, Mother Nature is not predictable. Just as it has been challenging to predict weather patterns, it has been equally challenging to predict the drift and shift of the influenza virus. This flu season is approaching numbers seen during the 2009 pandemic. At the time this article was written, the proportion of influenza deaths is above the epidemic threshold for week 2 in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Mortality Surveillance System. We are all at risk for infection. The greatest risk falls on our children, immunocompromised, and folks over the age 65. As of now, there are a reported 53 pediatric deaths related to influenza.

We have to make choices every day about our health and wellness — from the food we eat to the medications and supplements we take. One thing remains clear and unified — we all want what’s best for our families. Similarly, it is important to know the facts about vaccinations and influenza in order to make informed decisions.

Flu Facts

  • The flu is a contagious virus effecting the respiratory system. It often presents like a respiratory infection but can also present with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  • You can spread the virus up to 6 ft away with a good cough or sneeze.
  • Symptoms start 1-4 days after being infected with the virus. You can spread the virus from day 1 prior to showing symptoms up to about 7 days after symptoms develop. That means you can spread the infection even without having symptoms. This is why hand hygiene is so important.
  • Some people can be infected and have no symptoms but they can still spread the virus.
  • Purchases of over-the-counter flu medications generally cost a lot more than getting a flu shot, especially if the immunization is covered by insurance. In addition, the over the counter flu medications only target symptoms. You body must fight the virus.
  • Vaccinations don’t always “match” the virus because scientists have to guess which strain(s) will be prevalent in the upcoming year.
  • Vaccines don’t offer 100 percent protection, and there have been occasions when their effectiveness turned out to be less than 10 percent. This is because the virus changes its surface proteins to survive and persist in our environment.
  • The vaccine is not made of a live virus. You don’t catch influenza from the vaccine. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to stimulate an immune response in your body that is protective against the virus. If you develop a cold or influenza around the time you received the vaccine, you were likely already infected.
  • If you catch the flu but had a flu shot, your illness may be less severe than if you hadn’t received the vaccination because your immune system is ready for it.
  • People of all ages die each year from flu complications but it is especially dangerous for young children and seniors.
  • People miss work, kids miss school, and people are hospitalized due to flu.
  • The illness can make you very sick even if you are otherwise healthy.
  • Hospitalizations and missed work cost quite a bit more than flu shots.
  • Death from influenza is potentially preventable.
  • There is no cure for influenza. If you are infected, your body must fight the illness.
  • Tamilfu is a medication that prevents the virus from replicating in your body and allows your immune system a chance to work faster. It does not cure the virus.
  • Antibiotics do not treat influenza.

Driggs, Victor and Cache Clinics are offering the quadrivalent and high-dose formulation of the vaccine. The quad includes an additional B-strain vaccine. Trivalent shots do not include additional B-strain protection. If this difference concerns you, make sure you ask what type of shot is available. Many non-medical businesses may offer only the trivalent dosage.

High-dosage vaccines as recommended for people over the age of 65 or with compromised immune systems.

No appointment is necessary to get a flu shot at any of our clinics. Remember that Cache Clinic does not bill insurance, and if you come to Cache specifically for a shot, you won’t be charged an additional exam fee unless you need and ask for an additional exam.

Dr. Erin Prissel specializes in Family Practice medicine. She’s accepting new patients at Driggs Health Clinic.
To learn more about seasonal influenza: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/qa/flushot.htm

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