Monday, October 20, 2014

Is it Ebola? Or "just" the FLU?

You have a fever, chills, sore throat muscle aches, headache, nausea and vomiting…is it Ebola Virus? Or perhaps that new respiratory virus (Enterovirus 68)? While technically speaking, it is possible for your illness to be caused by one of these dreaded agents, the odds are very much against it. However, you very well may have the FLU.

NOW is the time to get your flu vaccine- please! The flu vaccine is recommended for EVERYONE aged 6 months and older (who does not have a contraindication for the immunization.) We are already seeing cases of flu here in Austin, as others are across the United States. Instead of fretting about the two cases of Ebola virus here in Texas, recognize that last year in Texas alone, twenty children died from the flu. Twenty. Children. Gone. And, according to the CDC,  across the United States we have over 23,000 deaths and over 200,000 hospitalizations from influenza.

"But Dr. Grimes, the flu shot always gives me the flu!"
No, it does not. The flu shot does NOT contain live virus- it is not capable of causing influenza. In randomized, blinded studies the only difference between people who got a placebo (salt water) vs those who receive the actual flu vaccine is that the real vaccine makes your arm more sore for a few days.

There are no absolutes in medicine, but I will share that in my 20 years of practice, 99% of my patients who have actually HAD a real case of influenza make it a priority to get a flu shot each year so they don't have to experience the flu again. This is not a perfect vaccine, but annual flu vaccines greatly reduce your chance of getting the flu, and definitely decrease the severity of the infection if you end up with influenza.

BOTTOM LINE: The CDC recommends ANNUAL FLU VACCINE for everyone* over the age of 6 months. I got mine- did you get yours yet?

(*Flu vaccine is not indicated for the minority of people with "severe, life-threatening allergies to flu vaccine or any ingredient in the vaccine. This might include gelatin, antibiotics, or other ingredients. ")