MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Every fall, information flies around about the dreaded flu nearly as fast as the sneezes start to fly, and it can be tough to filter all of that information. Natalie Nyhus talked with Dr. Jess Prischmann to try and separate the myths about the flu from the facts. Here are the questions Prischmann addressed.

Can getting a flu shot give you the flu?
Prischmann said she’s heard this from a number of patients recently. It is a myth that getting a flu shot will give you the flu. However, you can get a flu shot and then contract a different virus or a different strain of influenza. The vaccine itself, though, will not give you the flu.

Is there such a thing as the “stomach flu”?
Prischmann said that she likens the use of this phrase to people using adjectives instead of adverbs — “I’m feeling good” versus “I’m feeling well.” The phrase gets the point across without being technically correct. Influenza is a respiratory virus, and so if the gastrointestinal system is involved, it’s generally because of a different viral infection.

Does the flu virus have anything to do with birds? And is the bird flu the same thing as the human flu?
The virus does mutate in birds, Prischmann said, but it’s very rare that the mutations can lead to millions upon millions of deaths as they did in the 1918 outbreak. So long as the transmission remains human-to-bird and not human-to-human, a major outbreak like that is not likely.

Can you actually die from the flu?
It’s scary to contemplate, but Prischmann said that the flu is absolutely capable of leading to death, more so due to the complications that arise when one is sick from the flu. Some of those include pneumonia and dehydration.

If you get vaccinated this year, are you protected for the next few years?
You’d be incredibly lucky to get multiple years’ worth of protection from a single shot, Prischmann said. Because the strains vary from year to year, you should definitely consider getting vaccinated for the flu with each season.

“It’s going to be a long winter,” she said.


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