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Discussion Title Flu Season

The Health Department's Dr. Peter Troell, MD, answered questions about this year's flu season, vaccination, flu shots at county clinics, prevention tips and more.


Peter Troell : Thanks for joining us this morning. I am glad to have this opportunity to chat with you and look forward to providing you with up to date information available about influenza and influenza vaccination. As you know, influenza is a serious illness and everyone should know how to best prevent its spread. Getting vaccinated is the single best way to and protect yourself, your family, and the community. That is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months should get the flu vaccine every year.


Sandy : I understand the H1N1 virus is in this year's flu shot. Is this anything for the public to be concerned about? I've held off on my shot this year because of this. I'm waiting to hear about this in the news and any reactions people may have had (like last year) but I haven't heard anything yet which doesn't mean anything. Health professionals I know are not getting the shot because the H1N1 virus is in this years shot. Thank you. Did you get the shot or will you?

Peter Troell : The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season. The vaccine is safe and we recommend that you go ahead and get vaccinated as soon as possible, before influenza starts spreading through the community. I have received my flu vaccine this year as has my two year old daughter.


Burke, VA : How long does flu season last? People seem to get the flu all the time.

Peter Troell : Flu season typically is October through May. Although the flu is more common these months, we do see a small amount of flu in other seasons. Some of the symptoms are similar to other illnesses (such as the common cold) which may cause some people to think they have the flu. Not everyone who has an upper respiratory illness has the flu. Symptoms of the flu include fever plus a cough and/or soar throat. Other symptoms include muscle aches, fatigue, and headache. Children may also experience vomiting and diarrhea.


Janet W : I live in Reston and I am interested in getting the flu vaccine in the nasal spray form for my 2 daughters, ages 5 & 7. Can you tell me where and when it will be offered by the county? My pediatrician is only offering the shot form.

Peter Troell : This year the CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months should be vaccinated against the flu. The nasal spray ("flu mist") is for health people 2 - 49 years of age who are not pregnant. So, your children can get the nasal spray if they meet these criteria. Nasal spray and flu shots are both currently availble at the health department's five district offices and throughout the community. Go to www.fairfaxcounty.gov/flu to find a location near you.


Anonymous User : Is flu shots free?

Peter Troell : Last season, the H1N1 flu vaccine was free to everyone as part of a federal program. This year, there is a charge for flu vaccine at most locations. For example, flu vaccine is available at the health department for $25. You may also check with your health care provider about other options.


Anonymous User : Little kids in daycare seem very vulnerable to the flu. Besides getting the vaccination, what else can be done to protect them?

Peter Troell : You are absolutley right! Getting your child vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect him or her. In addtion, we recommend these healthy behaviors year-round: Wash hands often for 20 seconds with soap and water. (If soap and water are not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective); Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissues or your upper sleeve (throw the used tissue into the trash); If sick with influenza symptoms, stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to get medical care.


Anonymous User : Last year the message was wash your hands, wash your hands wash your hands. I barely hear anything this year. Is washing hands still so important? Isn't it nearly impractical to wash hands so frequently when at work or running errands? I touch stuff all the time that may have germs/flu.

Peter Troell : Again, get a flu vaccine is the first and most important step in preventing the flu. Hand washing, cover coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick are important year-round. If you do not have access to soap and water, we recommend you carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer with you.


Anonymous User : Do you know how this interacts w/ other infant vaccines since there have been no studies on the COMBINED effect of so many vaccines in 6-15 month olds?

Peter Troell : It is safe to receive a flu shot at the same time a child receives other vaccines. Generally, the nasal spray can be given with other vaccines as well. However, after administraion of a live vaccine (such as the flu nasal spray, MMR, or chicken pox vaccine), at least 4 weeks should pass before another live vaccine is administered.


Dwight : I have never had the flu and never had a flu shot. Based on my immune systems perfect track record, why should I get the flu shot now? I feel that willingly introducing the virus to my body will cause negative repercussions and side effects, is this a unreasonable assumption?

Peter Troell : It's important to remember that each year the flu viruses that circulate can change. Even though you haven't been sick with the flu in the past, it is still possible for you to get sick. We recommend everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine each year. Some people may experience minor side effects after receivin a flu shot, such as a sore arm. Serious side effects are very rare.


Anonymous User : Could you please provide the locations for Flu Shot?

Peter Troell : Flu vaccine is widely available in the community right now at traditional providers of flu vaccine, such as pharmacies, doctors' offices, etc. The flu vaccine is also avaialble at the health department. You can use the Flu Vaccine Finder on our website to find flu vaccine near you. www.fairfaxcounty.gov/flu


Anonymous User : I have heard some people who got the vaccine this year say that they felt nauseous and lethargic -- are you hearing this?

Peter Troell : I have not heard anything that would suggest that this year's flu vaccine is causing an increase in the number of side effects.


Anonymous User : Last year there was such panic over H1N1 flu. What's changed this year that there isn't such worldwide concern anymore?

Peter Troell : Although you may not be hearing as much about influenza in the news this season, the flu remains a serious illness that cause even healthy children and adults to get very sick. So we encourage everyone over six months of age to get a flu vaccine. Last year, when the H1N1 virus (which had not been seen before) first emerged, it appeared the virus was causing even more serious illness than seasonal flu. Over time, it became clear that H1N1 was affecting different age groups, the severity of illness was similar to seasonal flu. Later, the delay in H1N1 vaccine production caused some concern. This seaons, vaccine is widely availalble so everyone can receive vaccine.


Arms Hurt : We all got the flu shot this year and our arms are hurting over a month later. Why is this? Is this normal?

Peter Troell : Flu shots may cause soreness, redness, or swelling where the shot was given. Normally, this last 1 to 2 days. If you have other questions about this, I recommend you consult your health care provider.


Randy : My coworkers frequently come to work when they're sick. What can I do, if anything, as a lowly employee to tell them to stay home and stop spreading the flu. I don't want their germs! Thanks.

Peter Troell : The CDC recommends everyone sick with influenza symptoms stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to get medical care. Even when you are around sick people, there are steps you can take to protect yourself. Influenze spreads when a sick person coughs or sneezes and droplets land on a nearby person or surface. You may touch an infected surface an then touch your eyes, nose or mouth and infect yourself. Washing hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds, covering your coughs and sneezes, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth can limit the spread of the germs that cause influenza and many other diseases.


Shelby : Should my one year old get his flu shot at the same time as other vaccinations or should we space them out? I read an article that talks about GB syndrome when getting the flu shot in conjunction with other vaccinations.

Peter Troell : It is safe to receive a flu shot at the same time a child receives other vaccines. Generally, the nasal spray can be given with other vaccines as well. However, after administraion of a live vaccine (such as the flu nasal spray, MMR, or chicken pox vaccine), at least 4 weeks should pass before another live vaccine is administered. It is not fully kinown what causes GBS. It has been associated with diarrheal illness, lung or sinus illness and mostly notably in 1976, when there was a small increased chance of GBS assocaited with the swine flu vaccine (about 1 more case per 100,000 people who got the swine flu vaccine.) Since then, no other flu vaccinations have been shown to increase the risk of GBS.


Theresa : My son (5 years old) and I both received the H1N1 and standard flu vaccines last year. Since the standard flu vaccine this year includes H1N1 is it safe to get that vaccine again?

Peter Troell : It is not only safe, I would highly recommend it. People who received the H1N1 flu vaccine and/or a seasonal flu vaccine last season should receive this year's flu vaccine, as well. An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu, because flu viruses change from year to year and the protection a person receives from a flu vaccine decreases over time. This year's flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.


Peter Troell : We have run over our time, but I would like to thank you for submitting your questions. I hope everyone will take time to get a flu vaccine this season and remember to take the simple steps that will protect youself, your family and the whole community: wash your hands, cover your coughs and sneezes, and stay home when sick. Remember, you can learn more about the flu and flu vaccine on our website, www.fairfaxcounty.gov/flu. Thanks.

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