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Flu Facts and Myths

Myth: I am a health care provider and know how to take care of myself. I don't need the vaccine.

 

FACT:

People are most likely to get the flu vaccine when they get the information from their health care provider. The flu vaccine should be promoted during regular office visits to health care providers. Providing the flu vaccine at these visits allows for ease of access to an otherwise vulnerable population.  HCW’s that are immunized with the flu vaccine help prevent the spread of the flu virus to others, which is an essential component of standard care for the protection of their patients.

 

Transmission of the flu virus from infected health care workers (HCW) whether nurses, PSW’s, physicians or nurse practitioners results in significant morbidity and mortality to patients and coworkers. Often HCW’s’s will continue to work despite symptoms and therefore increase the risk of transmission in the workplace. Absenteeism of HCW’s from a health care facility can increase risk to patients who may be at great risk of becoming infected with influenza and its complications. HCW’s can reduce the risk of spreading the virus to patients they care for daily by getting the flu shot.

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Myth: Influenza is not a serious illness; just a fever and a few aches and pains. Influenza is a mild illness. 

FACT:

Influenza makes most adults miserable for a week with a cough, fever, chills and painful muscle aches. No other vaccine-preventable illness on a yearly basis is so disruptive to families and society, or results in such high rates of admission to hospital, death and absence from school, daycare, and work. Outbreaks of flu virus worldwide have claimed lives throughout history and many could have been prevented by the flu vaccine.

  • 1918 Spanish flu outbreak claimed over 20 million lives worldwide, more than both world wars combined
  • 2009 the H1N1 virus  claimed over 18,000 deaths world wide

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Myth: Influenza vaccine causes the flu.

 

FACT:

The influenza vaccine is made of inactivated (dead) viruses that cannot cause the flu. The vaccine takes up to two weeks to become effective in the body.  It is unlikely that symptoms of flu like illness experienced within a few hours to a few days following receipt of the flu vaccine are related. It is likely however, that such symptoms are connected to a virus or illness that was becoming active in the body prior to getting the vaccine. 

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Myth: Children do not need the influenza vaccine.

 

FACT:

Children are a main source of the spread of influenza. They can introduce the virus to others who are at risk for influenza and can easily spread the virus throughout the community. Several studies have shown that children, who suffer from influenza, experience more complications such as ear infections, require more hospitalizations and receive more antibiotics than children who do not get sick with influenza. There is also evidence to show that the greater the number of children in a family, the greater the chance that the rest of the family members will get influenza.

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Myth: Only adults with chronic heart and lung diseases need to have the vaccine.

 

FACT:

Young healthy babies are more susceptible to severe influenza virus infection and complications than older children or adults. Hospitalization rates for acute pulmonary conditions during influenza season are higher in children under 1 year of age. It is very important that children receive the influenza vaccine. It is recommended that all adults receive the flu vaccine especially those with a medical condition, those that care for young children and have elderly parents. Getting the flu vaccine not only protects yourself but decreases the chances of you spreading the flu to others.

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Myth: Only the elderly get the flu vaccine for free.

FACT:

For this flu season, influenza vaccine is again available free of charge to all residents of Ontario 6 months of age and older. Anyone with health concerns such as diabetes, pulmonary disease, heart disease, obesity or other chronic medical concern is strongly recommended to receive the flu vaccine. Those who work in closed settings, health care facilities, as well as, those who provide child care and essential community services are also recommended to get the flu vaccine.

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Myth: Influenza vaccine cannot be very good since the benefit only lasts a few months and a new one has to be made each year.

FACT:

The vaccine is produced to protect against the most likely strains of influenza that we are likely to see in our community, based on the previous year’s flu season. Influenza virus vaccine is prepared each year with viral strains that are chosen based on information provided from the World Health Organization. A worldwide network of physicians and labs study and identify which strains are most likely to circulate during the upcoming flu season.

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Myth: The new antiviral drugs are just as effective as the vaccine.

 

FACT:

 

The antiviral agents do not prevent influenza: the vaccine prevents illness. Antiviral drugs act on the virus once it has already invaded your body and stop it from multiplying. They only work if taken within the first 24-48 hours of being infected, when most people do not even realize that they have influenza. The antiviral drugs are most effective in controlling outbreaks of influenza illness in long-term care facilities.

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