Stymie the flu by being prepared

Published 9:42 am Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2015 is barely a week old, and the flu has already completely buffeted the Butler County area.

With the end of the holiday season meaning a return to school for the county’s youth, flu shots have never been more important.

Dr. Duane Williams with Stabler Clinic said that although the current crop of flu cases began around the Christmas vacation season, we’re still not out of the woods yet.

“It has probably tapered off to some extent in Butler County at this time,” Williams said.

“The vaccine that was given for influenza this year was not as thoroughly prepared for the actual case that we have, but it does more good than to not have one at all.  And it’s still recommended that everyone get a flu vaccine.”

Williams said that another contributing factor to the widespread nature of the illness this season is due to the mistaken belief that flu vaccines can actually cause the flu in recipients.

Williams dispelled the notion, saying that side effects are a result of the body building up its immunity defenses.

“Mostly, people think that if they get the flu shot and they’re having any kind of reaction at all, they’re getting the flu,” Williams added.

“That’s not true.  You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine.  On the other hand, some people do get minor side effects with body aches, pain and a low-grade temperature.  And the only people that have to be very cautious about the flu vaccine are people who are seriously allergic to eggs.”

To complicate matters, neighboring states have been swarmed by flu cases that include a newer, more resistant strain.

Williams added that the same problems have engulfed Alabama, which might account for several instances of children that have come in for the flu vaccine and still ended up succumbing to the illness.

Despite that fact, he still urged residents to seek medical attention at the first sign of flu-like symptoms, which include sore throat, headache, eye pain, cough, oscillating pains, etc.

“There is medication for the flu, but the medication has to be given within 48 hours for it to be effective,” Williams said.

“If you wait for the third or fourth day to go to the doctor or get a prescription, it may not be as effective.”

While influenza vaccinations are recommended for everyone, certain groups are at a higher risk for complications, including:

· All children between 6 months and 5 years of age, but especially those between 6 months and 2 years of age
· Adults 50 years of age and older, especially those 65 years and older
· Adults and children with chronic disorders
· Pregnant women
· Children aged 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy
· Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities
· Persons who are immunosuppressed
· Health care workers
· Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than age 5 and adults 50 years of age and older
· People who are morbidly obese (those with a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater)

Ultimately, Williams said that the greatest wards against spreading the flu and other illnesses have not changed.

“Cover your mouth adequately when you cough and wash your hands frequently.”