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Protect Yourself. Protect Your Family. Prevent the Flu.
Questions & Concerns: The Flu & The Flu Shot

Message from Dr. Waddell

Hello. I'm Dr. Lisa Waddell, Deputy Commissioner of Health Services at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control. Thank you for taking the time to watch this very important public health message about flu and the flu shot. This DVD has been created as a result of questions and concerns shared with our Office of Minority Health during focus groups and community meetings that were held all across the state. We hope that the information Dr. Linda Bell, the Director of Clinical Services, shares with you addresses some of those concerns. We also hope that you share what you learn here today with your family and friends. And, most importantly that you protect yourself and your family by getting your flu shot this year and every year. Thank you for joining us.

Opening Statement

Hello, I'm Dr. Linda Bell, Director of Clinical Services at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (Show name and title). Thanks for joining us. Today I'm going to respond to some of the most common questions and concerns regarding the flu, or influenza, and the flu shot.

Influenza is everyone's concern because anyone can get sick from the flu and some people may die. And for anyone who suffers from diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, cancer or HIV/AIDS, the flu puts you at higher risk of having health complications. Many of these conditions are common among minorities so it is even more important to receive the flu shot each year to protect yourself from further problems.

So, if everyone's ready, let's get started. Hello, Shannon. What's your question?

Question:

I've heard a lot of things about the flu, but what exactly is it and why should I be so concerned?

Answer:

Influenza or the flu is an illness caused by a virus that affects the upper respiratory system and the lungs. As many as one in five Americans will get the flu each year. It is not the sniffles of the common cold nor should it be mistaken for what people commonly call a stomach virus or stomach flu. The most common symptoms are:

  • high fever (a temperature over 100 degrees F),
  • chills and shakes
  • headache, and body aches
  • extreme tiredness or fatigue,
  • a dry cough,
  • sore throat and
  • Some people may also experience nausea and vomiting.

The flu is a serious illness, especially for young children, older adults, pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions who can become very ill if infected. Those medical conditions include: diabetes, heart disease, asthma, kidney disease, cancer and HIV/AIDS. Less commonly, even young, otherwise healthy people have to be hospitalized. The greatest concern is that between 10,000 – 30,000 Americans die of the flu each year depending on how severe the strain is.

The best way to protect you and your family from the flu and its possible complications is to get vaccinated every year.

Great! We have another question. Hello, John. What's your question?

Question/Statement:

I heard the flu shot gives you the flu or even make you sick. Is this true?

Answer:

Many people believe that the flu shot can give you the flu but it doesn't. This is a very unfortunate myth that prevents too many people from getting the protection that the flu vaccine provides. Flu vaccines help your body produce antibodies that protect you from influenza infection.

Some people do experience some minor side effects from the shot like redness, soreness or swelling where the shot was given or a low grade fever or aches. These side effects are generally mild and last only a day or two after the shot and should not be mistaken for the flu which lasts longer and is more severe. Over the counter medications may relieve these discomforts.

It's important that you tell your health care provider about any current illnesses or severe or life-threatening allergies you may have before receiving the flu shot. People with a severe egg allergy should not get the vaccine. It is fine to get the flu vaccine if you have a mild illness like a cold but if you are sick, you may be asked to come back for the vaccine when you are well.

Do we have another question? I guess so. Hello, Maria.

Question:

Needles really scare me. I just don't think that I can get the flu shot. Are there any other ways to protect myself without getting the flu shot?

Answer:

Many people do not like needles. For some, there is another option. Vaccination with the nasal-spray flu vaccine is available for healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 who are not pregnant. Ask your health care provider if it is right for you or your family members. No one likes getting a shot but getting the flu vaccine can have great health benefits for you. Remember, some minor discomfort from the shot itself is better than taking the risk of getting the flu.

There are also some things that you can do on a daily basis to prevent the spread of the flu and other germs like washing your hands, covering your cough, and staying home when you're sick, but these measures are no substitute for getting the flu vaccine every year.

Thanks for the question. Hello, Jose. What's your question?

Question:

I can't afford to miss work. If I get sick what should I do?

Answer:

If you do get sick, it is very important that you stay home and get plenty of rest. You should drink plenty of liquids like water, juice or light broth. The same is true for children. They need to stay home from school if they are sick. It is important that you do not go back to work or school until at least 24 hours after your fever and other symptoms are gone.

The flu is very contagious. It is possible to infect your loved ones, friends and co-workers even before you know you're sick. Most adults may be able to infect others beginning a day before symptoms develop and up to 5 -7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially children, might be able to infect others for an even longer time. That is why getting the flu shot is so important.

Hello, Tyrone. How can I help you?

Question:

I have antibiotics left over from the last time when I was sick. Can't I use them to treat the flu?

Answer:

No. Antibiotics are for illnesses caused by bacteria. The flu is a viral illness that will not be cured by antibiotics however other medications called antivirals may be prescribed for treatment of the flu in individuals who are at high risk of developing complications.

Generally most people will recover from the flu if they stay home, drink plenty of fluids and rest. Over the counter medications are available to help alleviate the symptoms, but not cure the flu. A pharmacist should be able to answer questions about what over the counter medications are best for you. There are, however, times when the flu is very serious and you should seek medical attention.

You should seek medical attention for children if they have:

  • A high fever that won't go away; (over 101 degrees)
  • If there's trouble breathing;
  • it thei skin has a bluish color; or
  • if they refuse liquids; or
  • they have another medical condition that could get worse, like asthma

For Adults, the flu is serious if they have:

  • A high fever over 101 degrees
  • If there's trouble breathing
  • pain or pressure in the chest
  • if they've fainted or if the feel like fainting
  • or if they appear confused

If you're prescribed an antibiotic for another illness, you should make sure you take it exactly as the doctor tells you. Don't save your medication and assume that you can use it to treat another illness And don't pass it on to another family member or friend.

Great Question! Thanks. Hello, Jasmine. What's your question?

Question:

I'm pregnant with our second-child. Should our family get flu shots every year?

Answer:

Yes. The influenza virus may change from year to year so you want to be protected with the vaccine that is prepared each year to match these changes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the following people be vaccinated each year:

  • Children (from 6 months old and up)
  • Pregnant women
  • People 50 years of age and older
  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
  • People who live or work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
  • People who live with or care for persons at high risk for complications including:
    • Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu; and
    • Household contacts and caregivers of children less than 5 years of age with particular emphasis on thecontacts of children less than 6 months of age

The flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

We have time for one more question. Hello, Joann.

Question:

Hello, Dr. Bell. When should we get a vaccine and where can we go to get it?

Answer:

The flu season in the United States occurs roughly between November and March. That's when the flu is circulating at its highest levels, but we do see cases of the flu at other times of the year. We strongly encourage getting the flu shot as early in the flu season as possible. That's the best measure to get protection through the flu season. You should contact your healthcare provider or local health department about getting the vaccine. The flu shot is also widely available at many chain pharmacies across the state.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope that I was able to answer your questions and concerns. Please share this information with your family and friends. And remember...Protect yourself. Protect your family. Get your flu shot every year! Goodbye.