Published on February 21, 2018

More Flu Questions, Answered.

#RealLifeRx: Insight from Chief Medical Officer, Sharon Kiely

Sharon C. Kiely, MD, Senior Vice President, Medical Affairs & Chief Medical Officer and Michael F. Parry, MD, Chair of Infectious Diseases

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Doctors and public health officials have been trying to convince all of us about the importance of the yearly influenza, or “flu,” vaccination for some time.  And yet, many of us do not take that advice.  Why? There are many reasons and there is a lot of misinformation – especially on social media- about risks, side effects, and an over-emphasis on exactly how protective the vaccine is every year.  

1. Is this year (2018) worse than other years?
The amount of patients seeking care for flu-like illnesses and the number requiring hospitalization this year is very high, but not a record for the region or the country.

Woman Blowing Nose. Blog: More Flu Questions, Answered 2. Are there more flu cases this year because the vaccine does not cover all types of flu?
The potency of this year's vaccine against influenza A is about 25% effective, and 45% against influenza B. It’s important that the vaccine is much more effective against influenza B as this strain represents almost 50% of current flu cases.

3. How can I do my part to help in this flu season?
If you have already received your vaccine- thank you! Both the number of flu cases and the severity of the flu would be even greater because a large number of cases were prevented by all those who had a flu shot. From the bigger picture perspective, when immunity to influenza in the community is low, influenza rates are high and more people become fatally ill. When immunity is boosted by vaccination, influenza rates are lower and fewer people face such circumstances.

4. What are the symptoms of the flu? 

Symptoms can definitely vary by age, but the basics are:

  • Fever with chills
  • Sore throat
  • Muscle aches 
  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Headache 
  • Runny or stuffy nose

5. What should I do if I have these symptoms or if my child has signs of the flu?
Call your primary care doctor or your pediatrician and ask their advice. In any emergency, however, always call 911 or go to the closest emergency room.

6. I heard the flu shot can give you the flu. True, or false?
False! It is a scientific fact that the flu shot cannot give you the flu. It is possible (1-3 per every hundred people vaccinated) that you might feel a little achy and perhaps have a low-grade fever after the flu shot. If you develop a cough, runny nose or high fever after your flu shot, it’s a complete coincidence, or infection with another virus, or a flu infection before the vaccine had a chance to give you immunity (it usually takes two weeks after the flu shot). If you got your flu shot and had a bad winter with several upper respiratory infections, it was not due to your flu shot. Infection with many other viruses are common in winter and cannot be prevented with a flu shot.

Take a moment when you're out shopping, or picking up your prescriptions, or buying groceries, to get your flu shot! There’s not much time left this season. Influenza is a serious illness and should be treated as such. Around 50,000 people die from influenza every year. In a bad year like this, casualties and hospitalization will be higher. So, protect your children and grandchildren by getting your own flu shot.

Trust your doctor – and get a flu shot. 95% of our doctors do because they are well educated and have seen the evidence. Flu shots save lives.

A Word from Dr. Kiely:
It’s important to remember that the healthcare landscape is always subject to change, and with change, more information emerges. Stay on top of this information and as you do so, let me know if I can help.

Dr. Sharon Kiely, Chief Medical Officer, Stamford HospitalAbout Dr. Kiely
Sharon Cabrina Kiely, MD, has over 30 years of experience caring for patients. She is board certified in Internal Medicine and has spent her career as a leader in medicine in hospitals, the classroom and administrative positions. Read more...