Theresa Freed: [00:00] On this week's episode, you'll hear from state and county health experts. They'll talk about ways you and your family can prevent and fight the flu. They'll also address those common myths that surround the flu shot and finally learn the best time of year to get the vaccine and who needs it most.
Announcer: [00:17] Whether you live in or just love Johnson County, Kansas. JoCo on the Go has everything Johnson County, here's what's happening and what's coming up in the community you call home.
Theresa Freed: [00:30] Thanks for joining us for JoCo on the Go. I'm your host, Theresa Freed a Johnson County resident and employee of Johnson County government. The winter months come with many wonderful things like holiday celebrations, fun in the snow for kids and a little break from school. The colder temps also bring a lot more nasty germs that lead to colds and the flu. Today we're talking about how you can stay healthy all winter long. No guarantees here of course, but some good tips to minimize trips to the doctor or worse, the ER. Joining me for this conversation are Johnson County Department of Health and Environment expert, Caitlin Kintner and also Kansas Department of Health and Environment expert. Becky Prall who is part of the state immunization program. Welcome and thank you both for being here. All right, let's get started on the flu. Everyone's favorite topic for this time of year. So what are the ways that we can actually prevent it?
Caitlin Kintner: [01:20] So probably the the best way to prevent is washing your hands with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and then clean and disinfect any surfaces that those viruses can be living on. And then if you by any chance do get sick, please stay at home. And we actually do have a flu exclusion policy here in the State of Kansas. This recommendation recommended to stay home for five days and if your fever last for longer than five days, continue to stay at home until you're fever free for 24 hours without the aid of medication.
Theresa Freed: [01:51] Okay. And that goes for not just kids, I guess for adults. Right. For everyone. Okay. So even if you don't have those sick days built up, you still have to do your part.
Caitlin Kintner: [02:00] Yep. And that just does decrease the burden of disease on everyone else. So you are keeping everyone from being getting sick.
Theresa Freed: [02:06] Gotcha. So we all know the flu shot. It's a great way to avoid getting the flu or at least minimizing that impact. So there are always concerns about it. People worry about the side effects or will it really work? And what can you both share on that topic?
Becky Prall: [02:20] Well, the most common side effect that people are going to experience if they get a flu shot is the soreness in the arm. They may have also some redness in the injection site or some swelling. May feel a little bit of a headache or some body aches, but you're definitely not going to get the flu from the flu shot. Millions of people get the flu shot every year. So it's a really safe and effective way to protect you from the flu.
Theresa Freed: [02:44] Okay. And I know people talk about whether or not it's a live virus. Can you address that?
Becky Prall: [02:49] So the flu shot is not a live virus, so no way to get the flu from the flu shot.
Theresa Freed: [02:55] Okay. And what exactly does that mean? So what is in the flu shot?
Becky Prall: [02:58] It's just enough of part of it. It's not the live part that makes you sick. It's just enough of it to kind of fool your body into thinking that it needs to produce some antibodies to protect you from it without giving you that, that part that's going to make you actually sick.
Theresa Freed: [03:15] Okay. so those side effects pretty minimal, especially when you consider the seriousness of getting the flu. We don't want to alarm people, but how bad can it be for some?
Caitlin Kintner: [03:26] So for for most people the flu, most people do recover from the flu and it'll be usually pretty, pretty okay to deal with. But there are some people that do have some, some complications, the most common are like a sinus and ear infection. But then there is some really serious side effects such as pneumonia, inflammation of the heart, organ failure and sepsis which can lead to death.
Theresa Freed: [03:49] Okay. And there are certain people I'm sure that are more susceptible to those sorts of things.
Caitlin Kintner: [03:53] And that would be young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions such as asthma and diabetes and people that are 65 and older. And actually in our County, the actually biggest proportion of people who get the flu are actually under 18. So it's definitely recommended that everyone, six months and older get a flu vaccine.
Becky Prall: [04:11] If you if you are around people like that, if you have friends or family, if you have a new baby in your family or you have someone with a weakened immune system, definitely getting your own flu shot is going to help protect all those people that you care about, your friends and your families provides that herd immunity that we always talk about.
Theresa Freed: [04:28] Right? Right. And so there are certain flu strains and you know, we hear with sort of the, the letters of the alphabet. Can you explain what those those differences are and does the flu vaccine work with some and not others or how does that work?
Becky Prall: [04:42] So there's really two types of flu that are going to cause the most illness that people see. There's Influenza A, which the letters and numbers you talked about. The most famous one is probably that H1N1 that we've always heard about. And then there's also Influenza B. The good news is the flu shot pretty much anymore has four strains that it protects against. There's still a few out there that have three, but for the most part there's four. This year you're gonna see an H1N1 because of that outbreak that we had, that pandemic flu that we call it from 2009. Also the H3N2. And the neat thing about that one this year is a couple of years ago, the strain that they're using this year was actually discovered in Kansas. So we may have already been exposed to it and may have some good protection against that. And then also depending if it's the three strain or the four strain, there's going to be at least one or two strains of that B protection. So really when you get your one flu shot, you're getting kind of a buy one flu shot, get four strains of protection.
Theresa Freed: [05:44] Great. All right. And getting the flu shot, that doesn't mean that you're not going to get the flu. Right?
Becky Prall: [05:51] Absolutely.
Theresa Freed: [05:52] So it does add some protection though.
Becky Prall: [05:54] Absolutely. Yeah. Even if, if it's not the same. So they kind of pick the flu strains earlier in the season and if we see something that comes along a little different it still going to offer you that protection of your body saying, "Hey, I kinda recognize this." And even if you do get a little bit sick, it may still keep you from maybe getting hospitalized or getting really, really sick where if you hadn't gotten the flu shot it may be a lot more serious.
Theresa Freed: [06:23] Okay. And also when we talk about the timing of the flu shot, once you get the flu shot, you could there's a kind of a waiting period I guess before it's actually working. Right?
Becky Prall: [06:34] Absolutely. It takes your body really a couple of weeks for those antibodies to develop. So the best time to get the flu shot, you know, is before we start seeing that activity so that you're not exposed to all those people around you or in the store, wherever that are sick and your body hasn't really had that chance to take advantage of that flu shot.
Theresa Freed: [06:55] Okay. And the flu shot is available now?
Caitlin Kintner: [07:00] Yes, it's available now. And the CDC does recommend trying to get that flu shot on board before like the end of October. Cause our flu season usually runs from October to about May. And then for Johnson County and we have seen when it peaks, I'm usually a little different every season. Last season was about mid-March, but the season before that was mid-February. So it can peak at various times. So it's definitely good to get that vaccine on board early.
Theresa Freed: [07:25] Okay. And when you say peak, what does that mean?
Caitlin Kintner: [07:27] The most cases of the month. Yeah. So we're seeing a large increase of cases. So.
Theresa Freed: [07:33] And how is that tracked?
Caitlin Kintner: [07:35] We actually do influenza surveillance here at the health department in the State of Kansas influenza is not a reportable disease, but our physicians offices, hospitals, schools are really good about reporting those numbers to us. And we actually have those numbers available on our website.
Theresa Freed: [07:49] Okay. And I know we talked about this a little bit, but if you do get the flu go see your doctor and then what can they do for you?
Caitlin Kintner: [07:58] They can provide anti-virals. But they're definitely recommended to start pretty quickly on those to have any effect to help shorten your symptoms.
Theresa Freed: [08:06] Okay. And what are the symptoms?
Becky Prall: [08:09] Kind of a severe cold. A lot of times people will have cough, runny nose, but also just really achy and just feeling absolutely miserable.
Caitlin Kintner: [08:18] With or without a fever too. It's sometimes a lot of people send those don't even have a fever. Even though you think of like the common flu is you're going to have fever and not necessarily everyone does have a fever, but they do.
Theresa Freed: [08:29] Okay. And then to dispel another myth, I guess, you know, some people if they have a stomach ache, they say it got the stomach flu. That's not, that's not the flu type pain.
Caitlin Kintner: [08:39] Those are two different things. That stomach flu, quote unquote, they say it's actually norovirus. And that actually infects the intestinal tract. So the influenza virus actually attacks the upper respiratory tract. So two different locations of the body. Although children sometimes when they are infected with the influenza virus, they sometimes can have vomiting and diarrhea that is most common commonly seen in children.
Theresa Freed: [09:06] Okay. And the only way to know for sure if you have the flu is to test, is that right?
New Speaker: [09:09] Correct.
Theresa Freed: [09:10] Okay. So bottom line, if you start feeling really, really super cruddy, go see your doctor. Right. Okay. And also of course we're still able to get the flu shot and it'll still have some, some good use, right?
Becky Prall: [09:23] Yes. Never too late to get it from never too late.
Theresa Freed: [09:26] Okay. Good message there. And then last question, where do we get it?
Caitlin Kintner: [09:30] We do have it here available at the health department.
Becky Prall: [09:33] You can also get it at your physician's office. You can get it at pharmacies, grocery stores with pharmacies. So just the important thing is to get it.
Theresa Freed: [09:43] Okay. And so even little children, babies, can they get those at the pharmacies?
New Speaker: [09:49] Six months and older.
New Speaker: [09:49] Can they get those at the pharmacies or do you recommend
Becky Prall: [09:52] Pharmacies are for older children and adults? So babies and smaller children would need to go to the physician's office or to their pediatrician.
Theresa Freed: [10:00] Okay. We'll stick with the pediatrician then. All right. That was great information. Is there anything else you want to share with our audience?
Becky Prall: [10:06] Actually yes. Children eight years younger who have never gotten a flu shot before. It's actually recommended that they get two doses, one dose and then a second dose a month apart. The first dose sometimes doesn't give them the protection that they need. So definitely if you have a younger child who has never had a flu shot before you want to make sure that they get that first flu shot as soon as possible so that they can get that second one and get that full protection before we start seeing that flu come around.
Theresa Freed: [10:37] Okay. And also one additional question. If people have questions or they are just seeking some more information where should they go?
Becky Prall: [10:46] So they can always reach out to the health department or the state. They can also reach out to their primary physicians or their nurses, at their physicians to get those answers.
Theresa Freed: [10:57] All right, sounds good. Thank you both for being with us.
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