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Are you conFLUzed? My whole family had the vaccine and we all got the flu!

“So much for the vaccine. My whole family had the vaccine and all of us still got sick. Vomiting and diarrhea for 3 or 4 days, it was miserable!” 

As a family practice health care provider, this is one of the more frequent comments I hear between November and April, “Flu season” in Michigan. 

Why didn't the vaccine work? 
The term FLU is confusing. Think for a moment: what does FLU mean to you?

Flu has become a general health term meaning different things to different people. It can mean a combination of many symptoms of illness including body aches, headache, cough, fever, runny nose, burning eyes, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting diarrhea, extreme fatigue. Take your pick and they all get lumped together into one term: FLU. 


Flu is not a medical term. Medical definitions of illness are usually quite specific. There is “influenza” disease. Influenza is different from the common “Cold”. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Influenza usually comes on suddenly.

 People who have influenza often feel some or all of these symptoms: 

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills -although not everyone with influenza will have a fever. 
  • Cough 
  • Sore throat 
  • Runny or stuffy nose 
  • Muscle or body aches 
  • Headaches 
  • Fatigue (tiredness) 
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. 

Influenza is the only illness the “flu shot” helps to prevent.


What about the Stomach flu? 

Stomach flu is a common name for “viral gastroenteritis”. These illnesses are also caused by viruses however there are two main groups that cause majority of illnesses.  

Rotavirus is highly contagious viral infection which causes excessive vomiting, diarrhea and dehydration. Infants and children 5 years old and younger are most commonly infected. Approximately 1 in 70 infected children will require hospitalization. There is a childhood vaccine available for preventing rotavirus.Each year, the vaccine prevents an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 hospitalizations among U.S. infants and young children. This is one of those “Flu” sickness that can go through the entire family.  

Norovirus is one of the most common causes of viral gastroenteritis in adults. The virus is highly contagious and spreads like wildfire through schools, communities, and families.This virus causes most cases of gastroenteritis epidemics on cruise ships and in nursing homes. Once a person is infected they will experience sudden onset of frequent watery explosive diarrhea. There is no vaccine for norovirus. The only way to get over it is to go through it.  

Avoid conFLUsion

  • Do what you can to protect your health by incorporating healthy lifestyle habits into your daily routine. 
  • Get immunized to protect against vaccine preventable illnesses. 
  • If you get sick, give your body what it needs: 
  • Rest 
  • Fluids 
  • Medication for pain and fever, if needed 

Happy Flu Season! 

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