Take extra steps to prevent getting the flu!

Hello I’m Jim Demmon with Clark County Close Up. Thank you for meeting with us. Thanks for having me. So can you please give us some details about the flu season here in Clark County? Absolutely. So yes we are in the middle of the flu season in Clark County. Flu activity is still fairly high but we seem to have passed the peak at least in terms of numbers seem to be on the downswing. It’s still early so I can’t say that with 100 percent certainty certainty. Last week we had 243 cases reported to us. Two weeks prior that it was 400. So a little bit less. And we’re recording this in mid-January just so. That’s right yeah. So we also track the percentage of flu tests that are are positive. So a few weeks three weeks ago it was 43 percent. And this last week it was 30 percent. So a little bit less. But again it’s still early also compared to previous flu seasons. Similar numbers but again we’re still kind of early right in the middle of the season so it’s tough to say for sure for sure. But past seasons were described as moderate and I think that’s kind of what we’re looking like right now. So so when you’re talking about the flu I think there’s some confusion. Does the flu include like stomach flu? What what are what are we talking about? That’s a great question and one that I hear often. So no the flu we are talking about influenza virus which is different from the stomach flu. The influenza virus is a virus that attacks kind of your whole body but especially focuses on your respiratory system so your lungs your throat your nose and those are the things where you have most of the symptoms. So it’s spread by people that cough or sneeze and then you know other people will breathe in that air or you know by touching things that people with the flu touch. And then we see a very distinct you know season of the flu so it’s usually late fall to kind of early spring. The stomach flu. So I don’t like to use that term because of the confusion that happens with it. So I usually just call it like a stomach bug or something like that. And that can be caused by there’s dozens of different viruses and bacteria and parasites that can cause kind of a stomach bug. And then we’re looking specifically at you know vomiting and diarrhea in terms of symptoms. So there’s they’re different in that way. So what makes influenza so serious? It’s a good question. So in in certain populations and even sometimes in healthy people it can cause a very severe illness. So that cough and fever can can sometimes lead to pneumonia. So especially in people like pregnant women elderly people young children and people with chronic diseases like heart disease lung disease diabetes those people are at higher risk of having those those complications. So something that might lead you to the hospital is something that actually might lead to death. So yeah that’s what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to prevent. So what should you do if right now so is at home in someone in the family either to them or someone else who really has the flu? What kind of steps should you take?
Yeah it’s a good question. So if you or a family member has the flu it’s important to try to stop the spread of it. So you know everyone being really good about washing hands trying to limit contact with the people that are sick. If you have if you’re in one of those groups that I talked about you know pregnant people people with heart and lung disease really young people be great to call your doctor and ask for advice. There are some treatments for the flu that will kind of decrease the severity and how long the disease lasts. And it’s important to start that medicine early on in the illness. So those are those are some steps I would take definitely wash your hands and call your doctor if you get a chance to. Should you avoid like if you have a sick child with the flu keep them home? Absolutely. Don’t go to work. Yes. If you know it’s the flu absolutely keep them home at least until they don’t have a fever for about 24 hours. That’s kind of the goal. And I would definitely recommend staying home from work if you have the flu. You don’t want to spread that to other people. It can be a lot of people kind of downplay it but even if you’re not hospitalized or have a serious illness with it I’ve heard of people you know being in bed for one two weeks with the flu and it’s just it can be very miserable. So the good news is you can prevent getting the flu. There are ways. What’s the best way to prevent give you the flu? Absolutely the best way is to get vaccinated. So yeah we recommend every year flu vaccine for basically anyone over the age of six months. Really? Yes. And then you know some of the things I talked about earlier handwashing staying away from people that are sick those or some other other ways to stay healthy as well. Now why do you have to get a flu shot every year? Yeah that’s a good question. So scientists look at this issue and we we have to study the the flu virus that’s in other places and it changes every year. So they look at what the flu is looking like in other places and then they try to predict what it’s going to look like here and then they make the flu vaccine based on those predictions. And most of the time they’re pretty good. It’s never perfect but no matter what it’s always going to decrease your risk of getting the flu if you get the flu vaccine. How safe are vaccines? And can you get the flu from getting the vaccines? You hear that as well. I do and I hear that from my patients a lot, The flu vaccine is very safe. The most common side effect that people have is a little bit of soreness. If you’ve ever gotten a shot you will notice that. In younger people you’re more likely to have a low grade fever. So that can happen as well. Really serious side effects are extremely rare. We’re talking maybe one in a million. And, so rare that it’s much more likely that you’re going to have you know an extreme illness from the flu or die from the flu than have one of those you know severe side effects severe reactions. And you can’t get the flu from the flu vaccine. I mean if you think about it it’s very similar to other vaccines and how it works. So people you know you will get a tetanus shot if you have a cut or something like that. And people are not so worried about getting the tetanus from the tetanus shot. It’s a similar a similar way. So the other thing I would tell people is that you know sometimes I hear from sometimes I hear from patients that they get sick after they get the flu shots. So I’ve heard that a lot. And what we’ve what we’ve looked at is that you know we we’ve looked at groups of people. Some people will get the shot and some people will get a placebo shot. So a fake shot something filled with saltwater. And then we compare the two groups. You know what happened after that. And what we see is that people get the same rates of illness in terms of like cold symptoms after that. So between those two groups. So what I think is going on is we give start giving the flu vaccine you know late fall. It’s right around when those colds start passing around and I think it’s just a coincidence to be honest. Yeah. So can you explain health experts say a high vaccination rates are necessary to create a herd immunity? You explain what a herd immunity? Yeah that’s a great question. So herd immunity is the idea that if most of a group of people are immune to this disease. So either they were vaccinated for it or they had it in the past. We will. That group of people will protect the people that are not immune for whatever reason either they didn’t get vaccinated or they can’t get vaccinated. They didn’t have the disease in the past. So what we’re trying to do when by boosting vaccination rates is increase the chance that we’re going to have good herd immunity among the population. So what that means practically is that we will protect people with lower immune system. So people on cancer treatment or young children or people that are just more likely to get sick or less likely to have a good response to a vaccine or in some cases are not able to receive a vaccine because they’re not old enough. So you talked about it earlier. How is a cold different than flu? And are there any vaccines available for a cold? I wish there were vaccines available for the cold. Unfortunately we do not have a vaccine available for the common cold. The common cold is kind of a group of symptoms so often a cough runny nose sore throat people know these but it’s caused by honestly there’s hundreds of different viruses that cause the common cold. So influenza is one specific virus that we’re looking at. It’s different also in kind of how severe you get in terms of symptoms. So people will get more sick with influenza usually. For adults especially it’s it’s unlikely to get a fever with a common cold but you will often get a fever with influenza. The cough usually is a little more severe with influenza. And you know people get hospitalized with the flu and that really doesn’t happen with the common cold. Very rarely. Also the one thing we look out for is you know influenza leading to pneumonia and that doesn’t happen with the common cold. Hardly at all either. It is the same without the vaccine. But the same basic precautions. Wash your hands. Things like that? Yeah. Washing your hands the for… So specifically for like the cold and the flu. Yeah absolutely. So washing your hands often hand sanitizer is good for the common cold as well preventing. One people. One thing people do without realizing is actually touching their face throughout the day. And actually studies have shown that if you touch your face less you will get less sick or you will get sick less often. Another thing I tell people is to stay on top of kind of their preventive things with their doctor as well as take their daily medication. So for example something like diabetes can affect your immune system so if you are controlling your diabetes you’re going to be less likely to get sick. And there is some evidence that you know regular exercise can help prevent colds and the flu as well. So that’s something I recommend for people. I mean like if you sneeze or cough into. Oh absolutely. Try to cover you know the hands are better than nothing. But generally we recommend sneezing or coughing until you your arm or something else. You know if you do sneeze or cough in your hands try to wash your hands right away. Because you’re touching every door knob. Exactly. OK. So if people want more information about avoiding these kind of respiratory illnesses where can they check? Yeah.
So they can check. Clark County Public Health web sites. And there is a link there to the CDC page if you go under communicable disease. It’ll link to the CDC and there’s lots of information there.
That’s very reliable. And then we have a phone number. 564.397.8403. Yes. And that if you have any questions about the flu vaccine specifically that’s a great number to call. OK.
We’ll thank you very much for joining us and hopefully it’ll be a very short sweet flu season. I hope so as well. Thank you.

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