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The Flu Virus

The Flu Virus

Test your knowledge about influenza by answering the following true/false questions:


The flu is like a bad cold.

FALSE

People often use the term "flu" incorrectly. Influenza is a major illness characterized by the sudden onset of fever, chills, headache and general body aches. Shortly after it begins, the disease causes sore throat, nasal congestion, a tight feeling in the chest and a dry cough. Although most children and adults recover within one week, it is not unusual for children to feel exhausted for three to four weeks.

The virus that causes the flu is the same each year.

FALSE

The viruses that cause influenza change. Children who have been infected or immunized in previous years may become infected with a new strain.

Influenza is highly contagious

TRUE

Influenza is a highly contagious disease, and many children catch the illness from a person who may not even realize he/she is sick. The influenza virus is spread by person to person contact and by airborne droplets produced by the sneezing and coughing. The virus can also live for a short time on toys and other objects. Therefore, a child can become infected by handling an article contaminated by the virus and then touching his/her mouth, nose or eyes. Symptoms appear three to four days after being exposed to the virus, and a child remains contagious to others for the first seven days of the disease.

Since the flu vaccine is ineffective there is no point in taking it.

FALSE

Each year an updated vaccine is made to fight the three viruses most likely to occur that season. The vaccine is 75-85 percent effective in protecting children and adults from those three types of influenza. Remember, the flu vaccine does not protect children from regular colds.

The best time to be immunized is at the beginning of an outbreak.

FALSE

The best time to receive the vaccine is mid October to early November as most major influenza outbreaks occur in December or later. The vaccine does not begin to provide its protective effects for two to three weeks after it is given.

Children can get the flu from the flu vaccine.

FALSE

Unlike vaccines from years ago that may have caused bad reactions, today's vaccines are very pure and safe. Some children and adults get a sore arm or a mild fever that lasts for no more than two days after vaccination. It is not possible to get influenza from the flu vaccine.

The flu vaccine will not make current illnesses worse.

TRUE

The flu vaccine does not make another medical problem worse. For example, the flu vaccine will not change the amount of insulin for a diabetic youngster nor will it cause a flare up of a child's asthma. On the other hand, a child with a chronic illness usually has more problems with that disease if he/she catches the flu.

The flu vaccine gives lifetime immunity.

FALSE

The immunity offered by the influenza vaccination decreases over time. Furthermore, since the viruses that cause influenza change frequently, people who have been given a flu vaccine in previous years may become infected with a new strain.


The Centers for Disease Control and the American Lung Association recommend the following receive the flu vaccine:

  • Healthy people 65 years of age or older.
  • Children and adults with chronic lung or heart conditions, including children with asthma. 
  • Children and adults who require medical follow-up because of diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis or anemia. 
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care centers. 
  • Adults and children who have a type of cancer, HIV positive, immunological disorder or use certain types of medicine that lower the body's normal resistance to infections. 
  • Travelers to foreign countries where flu is prevalent. 
  • Children who receive long-term aspirin therapy. 
  • Individuals living in proximity of others (college dormitories, army barracks, etc.). 
  • Any individual who requests the vaccine to reduce the risk of developing influenza. 
  • Family members who may spread the infection to persons with the medical problems listed above. 
  • Health care providers. 
  • Persons providing essential community services (such as police and fire department personnel).

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