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Flu Season FAQ with Dr. David Cennimo

January 24, 2020

Hi, my name is David Cennimo. I’m an assistant professor of medicine and
pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, and I’m an infectious disease doctor for adults
and kids. Flu season is here, so let’s talk about how
to avoid getting this nasty bug. So, flu season is actually a pretty wide range,
but in New Jersey, it tends to be the later winter, so December and January. It starts earlier on the West Coast, moves
East, but for us we like to think about it as a January bug. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t contract
the flu in October. So, that’s one reason that we want to get
everyone vaccinated as soon as possible. Most commonly, we talk about sneezing, coughing,
respiratory droplets. So, things that spray the virus in the air,
but it’s also spread on surfaces, and people forget that. If you cough, if it’s on your hands, you touch
the door handle and then the next person coming through the door touches that handle, they
can inoculate themselves with the virus. So, hand hygiene during flu season is really,
really important. Flu typically is a rapid onset, so people
will tell you that they went to work feeling fine and they got sick, and they can tell
you 1 p.m. I got sick. But it’s rapid onset, fever, headache, muscle
pains called myalgias, cough, sore throat. You can have some nausea and vomiting, but I would
say that the most classic finding that you’re going to hear people talk about is they feel
like they’ve been hit by a ton of bricks. The flu shot cannot give you the flu. All of the flu shots, meaning the injectable
flus, are dead. So, there’s nothing infectious in there. Now, that’s not to say that people don’t have
some symptoms after they get the shot, sometimes. That can happen for a few different reasons. First, if you were already incubating the
flu by the time you got the vaccine, it’s not going to help you. And we know that the vaccine takes about 2
weeks to work in your system, which is why we want you to get vaccinated early, before
flu is in your neighborhood. You may have another virus. You may have a cold or something else and
you’re mistaking it for the flu. Finally, you may have gone into the office
to get the flu vaccine and there are already people sick there, so you could’ve caught
it, and unfortunately, if you catch it at the same time that you get the vaccine, you’re
not going to be protected by the vaccine, from that strain of flu. What most people feel is an immune reaction
to the vaccine. So, the vaccine is stimulating your immune
system, saying “look at this virus, or these viral particles, learn them, remember them,
and react later.” So, that process of learning can stimulate
your immune system and you may feel tired, achy for a day. That’s not getting sick that’s actually, I
think, a good sign because it’s showing that it’s really working. And that’s what a lot of people confuse with
“the flu shot makes me sick”.

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