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Debunking common myths about influenza

Debunking common myths about influenza

Published: 10/3/2018

Flu season is fast approaching, and as with every other year, myths are spread about the flu and flu vaccine. Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine debunks some of the most common myths about the flu.

Flu shots are only for kids and the elderly

"Influenza vaccination works best when the entire community is vaccinated. There are many studies that demonstrate when healthy people who are not children or over the age of 65 years get vaccinated, children under the age of five and older citizens are more protected. So it is a civic duty to get a vaccine to help yourself and your community. Think of it this way, if fewer people get the flu, then fewer people will come in contact with the grandchildren or grandparents who are most at risk of getting complications from influenza infections. So, flu shots are for everyone!”

If you don’t like needles you can get nasal spray

"The nasal spray has been shown to be less effective than the influenza vaccine given by injection. There are different types of needles that are being used to inject the vaccine. While some use a traditional needle, many sites use smaller prong-like devices that give a small prick to inject the vaccine. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends not using the inhaled nasal vaccine for the 2018-2019 season called LAIV4. The vaccination is given in a muscle in the arm. Most people tolerate the shot very well.”

If you’re allergic to eggs you can’t get the flu shot

"This is not true. There are specific vaccines that are made 'egg-free.' For example, the RIV4 (Flublok Quadrivalent) is not made with any egg products. It also depends on the type of egg allergy. If you have had only hives or urticarial, you can safely receive any flu vaccine.”

Getting a flu shot will give you the flu

"This is one of the most common myths. The vast majority of people receive an 'inactivated' vaccine. These vaccines are made up of parts of the virus but not the whole virus. So it is not possible to get influenza from that kind of shot. It would be like someone buying an engine and saying they now have a car. They only have a part of a car. There are what are called live, attenuated versions of the vaccine. This is the whole virus that has been changed in a way to make it less like influenza that you catch in the community. In that case, that type of vaccine does cause a mild infection but not like the real flu. This vaccine is the LAIV4 or Flumist vaccine given intranasally. The reality is that between October and March, there are lots of circulating viruses in every community. People worry when they get a vaccine and sometimes get sick within a few weeks. They often say that the vaccine gave them the flu. The reality is that they probably picked up another virus infection or other infection. Few people see their doctor and get tested and just blame the shot.”

Click here for more information about the flu.

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