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5 Flu Falsehoods

December 8, 2015
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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How much does your staff really know about the seasonal influenza viruses? How well trained are they to educate residents and families on the importance of the flu vaccine for people age 65 and older, and to parlay the predictable myths about how “antibiotics can solve everything”?

During your next team staff meeting, even clinicians and registered nurses might benefit from taking this quick quiz from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):  Influenza Antiviral Quiz for Clinicians.

When talking with residents and families, nurses and aides need to be aware that there’s plenty of misinformation out there about flu vaccines. Plenty of misinformation abounds about antibiotics, too—and all long-term care communities need to be proactive about antibiotic stewardship on the family front these days.

To serve as good “talking points” with residents and families, here are five of the most common myths about flu vaccines among older adults, and the information on them from the CDC.

5 flu falsehoods

  1. “The flu vaccine will give me the flu.” No. The flu vaccine does not contain the full influenza virus, but it does include “unique pieces” of the viruses, so the body’s immune system has something to recognize as “an invader.” This allows the body to create antibodies to fight the real virus better, should you encounter it later. In other words, it gives the body’s immune system the “head start of advanced knowledge.”
  2. “The flu vaccine will prevent me from getting the flu.” No. Vaccines are designed to show your body unique pieces what an invading virus looks like, so the body’s immune system can learn how to fight it by making antibodies in advance. It takes about two weeks for the body to react properly to the flu vaccine, and you should not get the vaccine if you are sick or have a fever.
  3. “I don’t need the vaccine; I just need to stay away from people who are sick.” Wrong. The flu, like most communicable illnesses, can be carried by people who show no signs of being sick. Unvaccinated people can easily infect others.
  4. “Older people don’t need any special version of the vaccine.” Not so. Many seniors may benefit from a special version of the flu vaccine designed for people who are older or who have weakened immunities via other chronic conditions. This version includes different levels of helpful antigens, and may be given more than once per season to keep the immune system at its peak germ-fighting level.
  5. “I already got sick, so I don’t need to get the vaccine.” Not necessarily. The annual flu vaccine contains markers for multiple virus strains, so you can still obtain protection from the virus strains different from the one strain you’ve already met.

For other key points and myth-breakers about the flu vaccine, see the CDC National Influenza Vaccination Week  page.

Related article: CDC launches 2015-16 National Influenza Vaccination Week


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