Health Alerts: Flu Season:Part 2

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Welcome back to Health Alert. Joining us again tonight is Dr. Mark Povroznik, chief quality officer and chairman of infection control at United Hospital Center.

Question: So last week doctor you told us why we have a flu season so tonight describe for us why do people get the flu?

Answer: Just to quickly recap, last week we talked about how the Flu shot primes our immune system and how the vaccine’s effectiveness can vary based on how well of a seasonal match there is. We agreed that the absence of getting a flu shot is “no protection”.

Question: So why do we get the Flu?

Answer: Viruses are microscopic. When they are circulating, they can enter our bodies through portals of entries: eyes, nose, mouth. Which is why keeping unclean hands away from these areas is important.

They need a host (us) to survive. Once the virus enters, it invades our cells to replicate. In doing so, we fall ill until our immune system detects the invader, responds by building and releasing antibodies and then the work begins to eliminate the virus from our bodies. In the meantime, some people fall seriously ill, some die.

Remember, the flu shot (even if not fully effective) helps speed up the body’s immune response.

Question: Why does it always seem like it happens in the winter time?

Answer: A variety of reasons. First, when colder temperatures arrive along with lower humidity, the virus is able travel further.

Once here, and because the season happens to be around winter, we spend more time indoors where viruses can more easily be spread. While indoors, a simple sneeze can contaminate the environment and make spreading easier. So, cover your cough/sneeze.

Likewise, we have turned up the temperature which tends to dry out a protective mucous layer in our respiratory tract.

It’s really all of these circumstances (and more) that contribute.

Question: What are the side effects of the flu shot and do you get sick from the flu shot?

Answer: Common side effects from the flu shot include:
-Mild soreness, redness, and/or swelling at the injection site

-Mild Headache

-Low-grade Fever

-Muscle aches / Joint aches.

But let's get to the bigger question: the flu shot does not cause the flu!

Question: So why does this belief exist?

Answer: There are three reasons, in my experience:

1. At the time the flu is circulating, other viruses are also…like the common cold. Which everyone is equally susceptible to getting. While the symptoms are similar to the Flu, the flu is more dramatic and far more serious. But often confused with the flu.

2. After getting the flu shot, full immunity does not develop for 14 days, and during that time, you can either acquire the flu in the environment or a similar virus, like the common cold.

3. Finally, some people have a strong “immune-mediated response” following vaccination and experience fever, muscle aches and/or joint pain. That is not the flu, but your immune system being primed.

For these reasons, there is a false belief that the flu shot causes the flu.

Question: When should you get a flu shot?

Answer: Flu season runs from October to May, with most cases happening from late December to early March. The flu vaccine is currently offered nearly everywhere. Visit your healthcare provider or pharmacist to learn more.

Getting vaccinated before the flu season is in full force gives the body a chance to build up immunity to (protection from) the virus. Be sure to allow 14 days from being vaccinated for immunity to fully develop. During the time, you are not only susceptible to getting the flu, but you may also pick up any number of circulating viruses that act similar to the flu, like the Common Cold.