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Good Question: ‘Reply All’: Flu Edition

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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Just like people have been filling up doctor’s waiting rooms to get flu shots, viewers have been filling up the Good Question inbox.

Most of the questions over the past couple days have been about the flu.

Sharon from Cedar and Phil from Stillwater asked: Why is the flu season just the winter?

“The virus itself may tend to transmit easier with cooler temperatures and lower humidity,” said Dr. Nila Suntharam, a head of the infectious diseases program at Park Nicollet Health Services.

Flu season here is October through May. In the Southern Hemisphere, it’s April through September.

Our winter behavior may also help spread the virus.

“In the winter, we tend to be more indoors,” Suntharam said. “We’re in closer quarters, more crowded areas that can help transmit influenza.”

Norma from Lakeville and Carol from St. Louis Park wondered: If we get the flu once, can we get it again that same year?

“If you get one strain of influenza, and you’ve not been vaccinated, you could potentially become ill with another strain as well, Suntharam said. “So, yes, you could get it twice.”

The flu shot targets three strains of flu: This year it’s H1N1, H3N2, and the Wisconsin 2010 strain.

If you get H1N1, you could still get H3N2. That’s why even if you’ve had the flu “you should still get the vaccine, it will still provide protection against other strains of influenza,” according to Suntharam.

Larry in Little Canada and Pam in St. Paul asked: Can our pets get the flu?

We used to think that dogs didn’t get the flu — that the virus only attacked people.

But in 2004, researchers found a new flu virus that can infect dogs.

The Centers for Disease Control doesn’t think that we can get sick from our pets. But no one knows if our pets can get sick from us.

It’s hard to diagnose a dog with the flu– as you might imagine — the only way to know for sure is a blood test. And just like humans, dogs don’t typically die from influenza. It’s the secondary infection, the pneumonia,that gets them.

Dog flu hasn’t been confirmed in Minnesota, but it has been documented in 39 states. There is a vaccine.

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