UF Health doctors emphasize flu shot’s importance

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While sitting at a bus stop outside a University of Florida Heath hospital, Alachua resident Tonnetta Porter said she hasn’t had a flu shot in four years.

And she doesn’t plan on getting one this year, either.

Porter, 48, said when she got a flu shot years ago, she felt sick afterwards and had muscle soreness — symptoms she said made her never want to get the shot again.

“It got me real sick,” she said.

Porter’s feeling toward the flu shot — a negative stigma surrounding the flu that suggests the shot can either give you the flu or make you sick — is something UF Health officials are trying to eliminate as flu season starts to pick up.

“The flu shot can’t give you the flu because the virus in the vaccination is completely dead,” said UF Health infectious disease physician Dr. Nicole Iovine. “If you get the flu after getting a flu shot, it was already inside you brewing.”

Iovine pushed the importance of getting a flu shot at a news conference Thursday afternoon.

Iovine called the 2017-18 flu season extraordinary.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 180 children died in the U.S. during the last flu season — the most since a pandemic in 2009. In Florida, eight children died. None of of them had gotten a flu shot, Iovine said.

“We saw more flu cases, not only here at UF, but nationally than we had seen in many many years prior,” Iovine said.

Iovine said it’s too early in the flu season to tell if it will compare in severity to last year’s or what the dominate strains will be.

Though it’s not clear what’s in store for the 2018-19 season, it’s not too early to start preparing, she said.

“We are already seeing flu cases in Florida,” Iovine said. “It’s so important to get the flu shot as early as possible because you never know when the flu season is going to peak or how severe the strains are.

“And even though we know that some people who get the flu shot will get the flu, those cases after often less severe.”

The vaccine given out the most to patients protects from the four most common flu strains out there, Iovine said. She added the flu shot takes about two weeks for a body to mount a full immune response to it.

For those who do get the flu, or have flu-like symptoms, Iovine said she encourages them to go a doctor if they don’t feel better within two days.

“If you find yourself sick and not getting better, you need to call your doctor,” she said.

At UF Health’s main hospital Thursday, several UF Health employees and UF students were getting their own flu shots.

UF Health highly encourages that all its employees get the flu shot. Those who choose not to get the shot will be required to wear a surgical mask for a year, starting Oct. 31.

A biohazard container about a third full of used needles sat next to registered nurse Holly Nelson, who on Thursday was quickly sitting down patients and injecting them with flu vaccination.

UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez let out a small scream when he got his flu shot, before turning and laughing in the direction of reporters and other health officials.

“Now we got to put the Band-Aid on,” Jimenez said, flashing a smile.

Nelson said for most flu shots, the whole process can take just a few minutes.

Nelson said personally, she tries to make sure a patient feels comfortable before giving them a shot, noting that most nurses understand nerves before getting poked.

“We make sure they know we take good care of you,” Nelson said.

Nelson did warn that patients might feel soreness around the flu vaccine injection site.

Iovine said a high level of soreness is a good sign a patient’s immune system is fighting hard to destroy the dead flu virus particles used to initiate an immune response to the flu.

Nelson said the soreness usually goes away within one to two days.

While a flu shot does help prevent spreading the flu, it doesn’t stop it completely, Iovine said.

Thoroughly washing hands and sneezing or coughing into the crook of your elbow also are good practices, she said.

“Our hands touch everything,” she said. “We don’t want to transmit any infections.”

Flu vaccines are now available at most pharmacies, doctor’s offices and hospitals. Some offer the shot for free.

Alachua County Public Schools has been vaccinating students with parental consent for free, using the FluMist nasal vaccine, Iovine said.

“UF Health is committed to keeping our patients safe … our staff safe and our community safe,” Iovine said. “The best way we have to do that is a flu shot.”

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Source : https://www.gainesville.com/news/20180913/uf-health-doctors-emphasize-flu-shots-importance