By Sam Gasnick, Contributor
Influenza is a contagious disease that can be prevented with a flu shot each year, said Marcia Adler, director of UNO Health Services.
“The symptoms that we see with patients of influenza are actually body aches, a malaise, that kind of tired that you can’t shake,” Adler said. “Sometimes it turns into a sore throat, but it’s never nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”
The flu shot does help in many cases. Even though a flu season may be very low in numbers, it’s still a good idea to get a flu shot.
“It helps tremendously. In the years following H1N1, we had a very low flu season,” Adler said. “People believed that was tied to how many people were intentional about getting vaccinated when we had H1N1, and so we know when the flu vaccine matches the organism correctly, we have very low incidents of people who are sick, but it’s got to be a match.”
Different medications and daily routines can be a protective factor from the flu.
“Wash your hands, get enough sleep, keep your body’s immune system in good order. If you are somewhere where people are coughing and sneezing, you need to get your clothes washed,” Adler said.
“I think sometimes we let ourselves get into situations where we’re in a room full of coughing people or we’ve picked up a baby that’s been sneezing around, and then we change our clothes. We throw those dirty clothes on our bed, and then we lay on that bed. So we need to be intentional about how to handle contaminated laundry, intentional about how we wash our hands. Those are all protective factors.”
Many myths exist about the flu that some people believe to be true, but aren’t.
“One of the myths is I got the flu shot, and I got the flu. That’s like myth number one. Number two is that people think that when you get a flu shot that we’re actually giving you a dose of the flu, like we’re giving you the mild flu,” Adler said. “The actual vaccine has been engineered; it’s not a live virus that can give you a sickness. It’s been engineered to the point where you can’t get sick from it.”
Many illnesses have similar symptoms compared with the flu.
“The flu is a spectrum disorder, so there’s hundreds of viruses out there, and the flu shot only protects you this year from specific extremes,” Adler said. “You could still get a sore throat, a fever from some other organism that’s not part of vaccine preventable influenza, but the other issue is that influenza is the big deal because it kills people.”