Feeling under the weather?

Now is the time for the flu shot

Melissa Bown, stands in front of cabinet that is filled with flu vaccines at Nathan Littauer Hospital on Friday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

GLOVERSVILLE — Patients at the doctor’s office, or customers at a pharmacy may have seen all of the flu shot signs hanging up.

Well, that’s because it is flu season.

“Technically, anywhere from now until May is generally considered flu season,” said Melissa Bown, nurse practioneer and infection prevention manager at Nathan Littauer Hospital.

Symptoms of the flu include high fever, cough, runny nose, body aches, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and sore throat.

Anyone who has the flu can be contagious up to seven days. Bown said everyone responds differently to the flu and if someone has a good immune system, their body could bounce back quicker, but anyone with underlying health issues can develop secondary infections which can lead to pneumonias.

A cabinet of flu vaccines at Nathan Littauer Hospital is shown on Friday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O'Hara)

“People can die from those,” Bown said.

A person is more highly contagious within the first couple of days of having the flu.

Since the flu is a rapidly replicating virus, there could be an outbreak of the flu rather quickly.

“It is spread by droplets, so if you are within, let’s say three feet of a person, you could breathe in those particles, or as the droplets land, they become a contact situation where you could pick that up with your hands,” Bown said. “And inadvertently give it to yourself from your hands, so it’s quite contagious.”

One way to prevent from getting the flu, Bown said, is by getting the vaccine ahead of time. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become affective. A majority of healthcare insurances do cover the flu shot and some with a $30 copayment. Other ways to treat the flu could be, avoiding crowds where there could be people who have the flu, covering your mouth when you cough and washing hands.

There are also other ways to treat the virus once someone has gotten the flu.

“To treat it, we have antiviral medication, then the common everyday cold treatments like Tylenol and ibuprofen, rest, over-the-counter cold medications for relief of symptoms, chicken soup,” Bown said.

Generally, once someone has had the flu, they can get it a second time in one year, if there was more than one strain of the virus circulating.

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are trivalent and quadrivalent vaccines. Trivalent has three different types of strains known as influenza A (H1N1); influenza A (H3N2); and influenza B; and quadrivalent has four types of strains that have the same strains of trivalent with an additional influenza B.

“Let’s say you had flu A first then flu B started circulating, you can get a flu B,” Bown said. “Hopefully there’s coverage in the vaccine for them, but if there was not, then technically you could get it more than once.”

Bown said the flu vaccine is made up of different strains of circulating viruses that have occurred in the past.

She said each year, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the experts meet to determine what they think will be circulation and try to form a vaccine that protects people from that particular strain.

“The vaccine, what it tries to do is elicit a response,an immune response similar to the actual illness itself, so if your body is exposed to it, it will give you a form of protection,” Bown said. “Your body recognizes this antigen and has the ability to fight it off.”

Some reasons someone might not get the flu shot could be because of a previous reaction to the vaccine or an allergy to the components in the vaccine, or personal preference.

Bown said she usually has to convince those who are afraid of needles to get the flu vaccine.

“To actually get a shot is not a pleasant thought,” Bown said.

Bown said “education is key” when talking to patients about preventing the spread of the flu.

The flu is actually contagious two days before the onset of symptoms.

“You’re contagious before you are even aware you’re sick,” Bown said.