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That flu you have may not be the flu

Image Credit: ADOBE STOCK
January 14, 2019 - 4:50 PM

PENTICTON - So, you went to the trouble to get a flu shot this year, but you ended up spending a week on the couch with body aches, chills, a cough, sore throat and congestion anyway?

Cheer up. You may not have the flu.

According to Interior Health Medical Care Officer Dr. Karin Goodison, the world of viruses is a complicated one.

Goodison says with the flu season just about at its peak, initial data indicates this year’s vaccine is a good match for this year’s flu bug.

“It’s an H1N1 season, which generally means better matches,” she says, adding the flu shot only protects against three viruses - H1N1, H3N2 and Influenza B. She says exposure to any other respiratory virus could give flu like symptoms, leaving you thinking you’ve got the flu.

Goodison says the only way to know for sure is to get a swab test for the flu, as there are "several other viruses floating around out there.”

Goodison admits the flu shot isn’t 100 per cent effective, but even if it’s not a perfect match for a particular flu strain, it will still provide some protection in the form of a milder or shorter duration illness.

The B.C. Centre for Disease Control will have a more thorough understanding of how good a match this year’s flu vaccine is by the end of the season, which Goodison says is showing signs of peaking and beginning to wind down in the past surveillance week.

They have also been checking to see what proportion of those people presenting for influenza actually have the flu.

“The latest report shows flu positivity at 50 per cent of swabs tested, meaning there is a 50 per cent chance the patient may have some other virus,” Goodison says.

“It’s not too late to get the flu shot. It’s a good match for this year’s virus, and we’ll probably see an upswing in Influenza B as spring approaches,” she says.

Goodison encourages children under the age of 10 and particularly those under age five to get the shot because that age group is experiencing a higher severity of illness this year.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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