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We Know You Know: Barfing isn't a primary symptom of influenza

  • Blog Post by: Jeremy Olson
  • January 10, 2013 - 12:00 PM

But did you know that we know that you know that we know? Never mind. Bottom line: Despite people's continued habits of calling stomach illnesses "the flu," that is not what we mean when we refer to seasonal influenza. While people with true flu infections can suffer vomiting, it is not a primary symptom. The confusion showed in today's story when a teen getting a flu shot expressed his concerns.

Jon Edin, 47, of Roseville, brought his son Erik, 15, after reading about the local deaths and the Boston outbreak.

"We've been meaning to do it, and the news was the thing that pushed us over the edge," Jon Edin said. "Might as well be careful."

"And throwing up is gross," said Erik Edin, a ninth-grader at Roseville High School. "I'd rather not be sick this season."

Viruses that cause stomach illnesses are also circulating now, which adds to the confusion. Some readers were upset that Edin's quote was in the story. While it certainly reflected the public confusion that exists, some experts suggested that it perpetuated the confusion we should be trying to prevent. One responder who works for an East Metro health care system offered the following criticism this morning:

When you quote the student who says “Throwing up is gross,” you are inadvertently reinforcing the incorrect belief many people have that influenza means throwing up and diarrhea (what we used to call “stomach flu”). As you know, influenza is in no way related to norovirus. I believe if more people understood the difference between the two illnesses, it would go a long way in helping prevent the spread of both. I can’t tell you how many times, as we are trying to educate employees about getting vaccinated for influenza, people say, “Well, I never throw up,” or “Whenever I get the flu it only lasts 24 hours.”

So what are the classic symptoms of seasonal influenza? High fever, headaches, soreness, chills and fatigue. To put it simply, when you've got an influenza infection you know it, because it really knocks you out.

News about a severe flu season is certainly creating concerns in the public. The good news? Right now, flu shots are in abundant supply. This wasn't always the case in prior seasons when manufacturing problems led to shortages and caused panics even though the seasonal flu strains weren't unusually severe.

 

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