No Time For Flu

15 09 2016

We’re launching our national educational campaign “No Time For Flu.” Hooray!

The campaign sounds the alarm about the dangers of flu, and alerts the public to the need for everyone six months of age and older to be vaccinated against influenza to prevent transmission of the disease.

NoTimeForFlu

Flu sweeps around the world each year, and is a contagious and potentially deadly viral infection that can be dangerous for anyone—healthy young adults, pregnant women, babies, and seniors.

Commonly known as flu, influenza is marked by some or even all of these symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone experiences fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in kids than adults)

“Some people infected with flu feel achy and tired, or they might have a sore throat, cough, or fever. They might even have a runny or stuffy nose. Many flu symptoms are similar to cold symptoms, which is why people sometimes mix them up and think it’s no big deal, just a cold,” said Trish Parnell, director of PKIDs.

Flu symptoms can last for days and are usually gone by the end of two weeks.

Flu viruses are transmitted in various ways—even with a kiss. Or, an infected person can cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny infected droplets into the air. Those droplets are then breathed in through the nose or the mouth of anyone nearby.

An infected person can also cough, sneeze, or talk and spray tiny droplets into the air, which then plop onto tables, or doorknobs, or other surfaces. Individuals later touch those surfaces and get the droplets on their hands. When those same hands touch the nose, mouth, or eyes, the droplets are transferred from the surface to the body, and transmit the virus.

An infected person can transmit the flu virus even before he or she starts to feel ill.

The CDC states that every year in the United States, on average:

  • 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
  • more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and;
  • about 36,000 people die from flu.

Flu doesn’t treat everyone the same. It can lead to pneumonia or perhaps, in children, sinus or ear infections. It can make an existing medical condition such as asthma much worse, and one can even die from flu

The fact that flu can take perfectly healthy individuals and kill them in a matter of days is the most confounding aspect of infection.

PKIDs’ “No Time For Flu” campaign reaches out through social media platforms and a website, www.pkids.org/flu, to educate the public on flu and how to prevent infection.

Through the use of videos, posters, and fresh informative materials, the public’s questions about flu are answered with clarity, and the need to use immunization and clean hands as strong tools to prevent infection is made clear.

“It’s so easy to catch the flu, and so easy to prevent it. Plan ahead, roll up your sleeve, and protect yourself and your loved ones,” said Ari Brown, MD, pediatrician and author of Baby 411 book series.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccination. There are rare exceptions, and an individual’s healthcare provider will be the person to address those issues.

NOTE: For the 2016-2017 flu season, CDC recommends that only the injectable flu vaccines be used, and not the nasal spray flu vaccine. Ongoing studies are determining the effectiveness of the nasal spray vaccine.

Because the flu strains change each year, an annual vaccination which matches the existing strains is required.

Please visit our site and use the images and other materials to encourage your community to immunize against flu.





Flu And Pregnant You

21 07 2016

Pregnant women are harder hit by flu than women of the same age who are not pregnant. Their symptoms are usually more severe, there are more hospitalizations, and they’re at higher risk of premature delivery or even death.

Although the infection doesn’t travel from the woman to her fetus, if the mom-to-be is infected, her infection may indirectly hurt the fetus. pixabaybelly

A premature delivery may mean the baby is too small, or underdeveloped. It can even mean death for the baby. If fever is present, mom’s infection can also lead to an assortment of abnormalities in the baby.

Why is this? Well, we can’t say for sure.

Part of a pregnant woman’s immune system is changed, or weakened, during pregnancy. This happens so that the woman’s body won’t attack the fetus as a foreign invader.

This altered immune state may allow a flu virus to attack, causing harm to the pregnant woman.

It’s also possible that part of the immune response is actually boosted during pregnancy, causing an increase in inflammation in the lungs when a pregnant woman is infected with a flu virus.

This in turn may be causing the increase in death and illness found in some flu-infected pregnant women.

The fact that pregnant women’s organs are squished may also increase the risk of pneumonia or other problems. Also, because of the increased blood volume, a pregnant woman’s lungs are a little “wetter” and less capable of resisting a severe infection.

Could be, may, might — that’s not what we want to hear. We want definite reasons so that we can use definite means to prevent all of this.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

If you’re pregnant, be extra cautious when it comes to flu. Call your provider as soon as you have symptoms — early treatment makes a big difference.

Symptoms may include:
•    Fever
•    Chills
•    Fatigue
•    Cough or sore throat
•    Runny or stuffy nose
•    Muscle or body aches, headaches
•    Vomiting and diarrhea (although this is more common in children)

CDC recommends that if you are pregnant and have any of these signs, you should call 911 right away:
•    Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
•    Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
•    Sudden dizziness
•    Confusion
•    Severe or persistent vomiting
•    High fever that is not responding to Tylenol® (or store brand equivalent)
•    Decreased or no movement of your baby

CDC recommends that individuals six months of age and older be immunized each year against flu.

Immunization and clean hands are the two best tools to prevent infection. Check with your healthcare provider to see about staying up-to-date on your immunizations.





FluMist Doesn’t Make The Cut

27 06 2016

Bad news for people 2 through 49 years of age: it’s back to the needle for your annual flu vaccine.

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) advises the CDC on immunization matters. At their last meeting, they advised against using the nasal spray flu vaccine during the 2016-2017 flu season.

The live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is one we all love because it’s a simple spray up the nose. But, the data from the last three years say the spray vaccine’s effectiveness isn’t great. It just doesn’t seem to work that well.mom and daughter

When the nasal spray vaccine was first licensed, data showed it to be as effective as the vaccine given in a shot. Researchers have yet to figure out why the nasal spray isn’t currently protecting people from flu.

The ACIP made its recommendation, but the CDC’s director has to review and approve it before it becomes an official policy.

The final recommendation should be published in August or September 2016.





Why We Think Flu Vax Gives Us Flu (But We’re Wrong)

17 12 2015

My Uncle Wayne will swear that, in 2008, he was vaccinated against flu and within a week was laid up in bed with—yes—a case of flu.

A lot of us believe that getting the flu vaccine will infect us with flu, and here’s why that idea is so common (and so wrong):

Reason 1
The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective in our bodies. If we’re exposed to a flu virus anytime just before or after our vaccination, our bodies are on their own.

Getting vaccinated and then getting the flu . . . it’s really just a matter of timing. Coincidence. The two events happen around the same time – getting vaccinated against flu and getting infected with flu – but one doesn’t cause the other.

Reason 2
Around this time of year, flu is what we hear about. The public health people are out in full force to get us vaccinated against the prevailing flu viruses. It’s called cold and flu season, but flu is the star.

But, there are cold germs and other viruses floating around that cause symptoms similar to flu symptoms. Our default thinking is that we have flu, but the reality may be that we have a bad cold, which also stinks, but is not influenza. So, it’s a misdiagnosis.

Reason 3
There are many flu viruses floating around the world. Each year, the World Health Organization and others try to determine which viruses will be dominant during that particular flu season. Sometimes they’re wrong, and the available flu vaccines, which were made to fight those specific flu viruses, don’t do a good job of protecting us from what’s really out there.

Reason 4
No vaccine protects 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time. It’s possible to get vaccinated against the flu strains currently in your area and still end up with flu because, for whatever reason, the vaccine simply did not protect you.

Reason 5
You cannot get flu from the flu vaccine because it’s made to prevent that very thing from happening.

The flu vaccines that are delivered through a needle are made from totally dead flu viruses, or tiny specks of deconstructed flu viruses.

There is not a spark of infectivity left in them.

The flu vaccine that is sprayed up the nose has live flu virus in it. But, and it’s a big-sized but, the virus in this vaccine is weakened to such an extent that it can’t make you be sick.

So there we are.

The flu vaccines protect many people. Getting vaccinated is a good idea, and one you should discuss with your provider.

To help prevent infection, get vaccinated as we discussed, and keep your hands clean all day. Try not to touch your mouth, nose, or eyes with hands that might not be clean. Those areas are prime spots for disease transmission.

See you on the other side of cold and flu season!

 

 

by Trish Parnell





Stomach Flu? No Such Thing!

10 12 2015

The next time your friend says she has stomach flu, you can look her in the eye and say, “Nah, don’t think so. There’s no such thing!”

What she probably has is viral gastroenteritis. In other words, a gastro bug.

The field of gastroenterology has to do with upsets in the stomach and intestines, and it’s called ‘gastro’ for short.

Gastro bugs are caused by any number of viruses, including norovirus and rotavirus.

These bugs that upset our stomach and intestines can be found in the food we eat or the water we drink. They’re primarily spread through the fecal-oral route. This happens when someone who is infected doesn’t wash his hands after using the toilet, and teeny bits of poop are transferred from his hands to the food he’s preparing. We then eat that food and become infected ourselves.

Or, an infected person who hasn’t cleaned her hands after using the toilet might simply touch a surface, such as a tabletop or doorknob, and contaminate it with a one of these viruses. We then come along and touch the same surface. The virus is introduced to our system when we touch our mouth or nose or eyes.

Symptoms of a gastro bug include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Fever
  • Body aches

Gastro bugs and flu share some symptoms, which may explain the conviction held by many that they have “stomach flu” when what they really have is a gastro bug.BristolStoolChart

If you pick up such a bug, you’ll want to watch out for dehydration. With diarrhea and vomiting, it’s likely that you’ll be low on fluids. You should drink sports drinks and oral rehydration fluids that you can get over the counter.

Pay attention to how you feel because dehydration isn’t something to ignore. It can quickly go from mild to serious. Check with your healthcare provider to determine treatment options.

Your provider will probably suggest certain foods, such as bread, cereal, bananas, and other items, to counteract the diarrhea. If necessary, there are OTC medications to slow diarrhea, or if the infection progresses, prescription drugs may be needed, or even hospitalization.

One thing that you won’t use to fight a gastro bug is antibiotics. Gastro bugs are usually caused by viruses, and antibiotics only fight bacteria.

Clean hands are the best prevention, along with vaccination when available (babies can be vaccinated against rotavirus).

Visit NIH for more information on gastro bugs.

 

by Trish Parnell





Why We Celebrate National Influenza Vaccination Week: December 6 – 12

3 12 2015

As the holidays approach, parents start to think of all the items they need to check off their to-do list: making travel arrangements, gift shopping, and sending holiday cards. What might not be top-of-mind for parents is protecting their children against influenza (flu) this season.

While most people tend to think about the flu when kids go back to school in the fall, influenza generally tends to peak in January or later and activity can last all the way through May.

We recognize December 6-12 as National Influenza Vaccination Week for this exact reason: if you or your children haven’t yet received the flu vaccine, there is still time to protect your family from this serious infectious disease. It is important to get vaccinated before influenza hits because it takes about two weeks after vaccination to be fully protected.

While anyone can get the flu, children tend to have the highest rates of infection. There is no way to know when or who influenza will strike, and no way to tell how a child’s body – healthy or otherwise – might handle this infection. For some, it can be mild, but for others, it could mean hospitalization or even death.

Despite the fact that getting vaccinated is the most effective way to keep yourself, your family, and your community free from flu this and every season, I continue to see many parents put stock into popular myths about influenza or the vaccine.

To help you make informed decisions about your families’ health, I’ve debunked the top five myths about influenza and the vaccine below:

  • Myth: Flu vaccination is not necessary each year.

Fact: Vaccination is the first, and most important, step to protect your entire family against influenza each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. In fact, the immune protection from the flu vaccine declines over time, so vaccination is necessary each year to ensure complete protection.

  • Myth: You or your child can get the flu from the influenza vaccine.

Fact: The short answer is no; you can’t get the flu from the vaccine, whether you receive the injection or nasal spray. Influenza vaccination is safe, effective, and time tested. The influenza vaccine contains virus strains that are either inactivated (as in the injected vaccine) or weakened (as in the nasal spray) and matched to the most commonly circulating influenza viruses that year.

  • Myth: If your child is healthy, he or she does not need to get the influenza vaccine.

Fact: Even healthy children are at risk for getting sick from influenza. Because immunity to the vaccine weakens, annual vaccination is a critical step to stay healthy. The CDC recommends that children aged 6 months through 8 years of age who did not receive at least one dose of the vaccine last season, should get two doses of vaccine approximately four weeks apart. (Check with your child’s health care provider to see whether your child needs one or two doses.)

  • Myth: The flu is nothing more than just a bad cold or the “stomach flu.”

Fact: Influenza should not be confused with a bad cold or “stomach flu.” Influenza is more serious than the common cold and can cause high fever, head/body aches, coughing for days, and severe fatigue for up to two weeks or more. It is estimated that an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to influenza complications.

  • Myth: You should not receive the flu vaccine if you’re pregnant.

Fact: Influenza vaccination is the best and safest way for pregnant women to protect themselves from the flu. Pregnant women are more prone to severe illness from the flu, including hospitalizations and even death. Because children under 6 months of age can’t receive the flu vaccine, pregnant women who get vaccinated pass their immunity to their newborn baby.

During NIVW, I encourage those who have not been vaccinated yet to do so now.

To learn more about the importance of pediatric influenza vaccination, please visit www.PreventChildhoodInfluenza.org. I hope that you and your family have a happy and healthy holiday season.

By Dr. Carol J. Baker, Chair of NFID’s Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition and Professor of Pediatrics, Molecular Virology and Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine





Flu and the drifting virus

5 12 2014

HiResWe get immunized against flu every year. It’s annoying, but the strains or types of viruses that cause flu are constantly changing, so the vaccines have to change.

Scientists track the viruses and figure out what will be dominant each year, and they keep those in mind as they concoct the vaccines.

This year, as has happened in the past, one of the dominant strains “drifted.” Over time, it’s changed enough that now the vaccines won’t protect against it because they no longer recognize it.

No one realized this strain that had drifted was around until this year’s vaccines had already been produced.

The vaccines we have will protect against a chunk of flu viruses floating around, but not this one. Which means, if you’re unlucky enough to become infected with this particular strain of flu virus, you’ll need to get into your provider ASAP if you have flu symptoms, such as:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Body or muscle aches
  • Chills
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Sore throat
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting

Your provider will put you on antivirals, which will help your body fight the infection. You need to get started on antivirals within a couple of days of symptoms appearing.

Don’t mess around with flu. It sounds like an old-timey illness that doesn’t mean much these days, but based on reports covering a 30-year span from 1977 to 2007, CDC estimates that, in any given year, there are between 3,000 and 49,000 flu-related deaths.

In addition to immunizing, make sure family members are cleaning their hands many times each day. The areas in the home that are frequently touched, like doorknobs, desktops, remotes, and faucets should be disinfected daily.

Keep your hands off of your eyes, nose, and mouth. Our hands pick up germs which enter our bodies when we rub our eyes or touch our noses or mouths.

Protect others by covering your coughs and sneezes, and stay home if you feel ill. Well, stay home AFTER you visit your provider.

That’s about it for flu right now. If you have questions, call the office or drop a line in the comments section.

 

By Trish Parnell