The Truth About The Flu

Have you ever been hit by a bus? I’m guessing the majority of you haven’t. But if you have ever had the flu (and I mean the ‘real’ flu) then you certainly would know this feeling. 
On many occasions I have people enter my office and declare, “I think I have the flu”.  Usually within 2 seconds I can determine whether you may indeed have the flu or whether you have a common cold.  What’s the difference? One makes you feel like a cesspool of infection; snorting, clearing delightful phlegm and going through a whole box of tissues in one afternoon that usually improves within a week.  The other makes you feel like death warmed up, then hit by a bus, not once, but twice and lasts a lot longer.
Each year many Australians take weeks off in sick leave for the flu and many are admitted to hospital.  Interestingly, it’s not just the elderly or sick that are struck down.  It’s the people who are too busy to get a flu shot.  It’s the people who believe they are fit and healthy already.  It’s the ones who say they don’t need it because they’ve never had the flu.
The flu vaccination is recommended for just about everybody over the age of 6 months old, especially adults aged over 65, pregnant women, aged care facility residents and people with chronic medical conditions.
There are a few strains of the flu floating around each year and each year they can be different.  Last year the Influenza B strain took out the gold medal for having its best season since 2008.  Groups mostly affected were our little people aged five to nine years old, adults aged 35 to 44 and the elderly over 85.
Often people will believe the flu jab gave them the flu.  The simple answer is that this is incorrect.  The flu shot cannot give you the flu.  Reasons why some people may believe this is that a different type of virus, such as the common cold, may have been picked up or there was exposure to the flu either before the vaccination or during the short period of time after administration before it starts working effectively.  Unfortunately, the vaccine doesn’t always provide protection for everyone such as our elderly and immune compromised patients.  However fear not, for the majority it works pretty darn well. 
So what’s my advice as a doctor who has seen and spoken to many people who have had the flu? Just do it! If you want to avoid feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus this winter then go and get your arm jabbed!  

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