Jan 06, 2014 8:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

As we welcome 2014, we also say hello to flu season. But January also welcomes back 2009’s killer swine flu. Why is this dangerous virus making an appearance across the country? “This year we are seeing the H1N1 come back. Just like its previous appearance it can affect any of us and can be especially severe in young people, woman who are pregnant and children,” says Russell Vinik, M.D., internal medicine physician at University of Utah Hospital.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thousands of flu deaths are reported yearly. But Vinik says this time around the H1N1 vairus can be beaten. “The difference between now and the H1N1 epidemic of 2009 is now we have a vaccine available that covers H1N1.”

Doctors want to remind everyone it’s not too late to get your flu shot. The traditional flu vaccine is made to protect against three different flu viruses, including the H1N1 virus (or commonly known as the swine flu).

Who Should Get Vaccinated?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine each year.

While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that the following groups get vaccinated:

  • Pregnant women

  • Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years old

  • People 50 years of age and older

  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

What actions should I take to protect myself and my family against the flu this season?

Get vaccinated, and, every day, take preventive actions with your family to stop the spread of germs.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water.

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. These actions will prevent germs from spreading.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, unless you are seeking medical attention.

Common Flu Myths

We’ve all heard of flu remedies and myths. Here are a few misconceptions about the flu that spread as easily as the flu itself.

Myth No. 1: The flu vaccine can give you the flu.

A flu shot cannot cause flu illness. The influenza viruses contained in a flu shot are inactivated (killed), which means they cannot cause infection. The most common side effect of seasonal flu shots in adults has been soreness at the spot where the shot was given, which usually lasts less than two days. Some people have cold-like symptoms, including sniffles, headache, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and body aches for a day or two after getting the flu shot. In some cases, you may also experience a low-grade fever.

Myth No. 2: The vaccine is only for the elderly.

The vaccine is for anyone who wants to reduce his or her chance of getting the flu.

Myth No. 3: Going out in cold weather causes the flu.

While the influenza virus is more prevalent during the winter months, cold weather does not cause the flu.

Myth No. 4: There's no treatment except rest, aspirin, and mom's chicken soup.

There are now antiviral medications available from your physician if you come down with the flu. Antivirals will only have some benefit if started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. The CDC also recommends that aspirin not be given to children under the age of 18, as this may cause a rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome.

Myth No. 5: Take antibiotics to fight the flu.

Antibiotics are not effective against viruses like influenza. Doctors also warn that taking antibiotics will not prevent you from developing pneumonia, and it may increase your chances of getting a resistant strain of the disease.

flu infectious diseases

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