Doctors urge people with flu symptoms to be tested with vaccine ineffective on common strain

Photo: Pxhere
Photo: Pxhere
Published: Jan. 15, 2018 at 11:47 PM EST
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It's that time of year again: flu season. And doctors are changing up one of their normal mandates for people suffering from the sometimes deadly disease.

Doctors usually say patients should not go to doctor's offices if they're sick with it.

But a doctor at Carilion Roanoke Memorial hospital said that’s changing because the flu shot this year has no effect on the most of the flu out there.

Dr. Paul Skolnik is Chairman of the Department of Internal Medicine, Carilion Clinic and Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and an infectious diseases specialist.

He explained, “The main strain, we call it, of influenza that's circulating right now is called H3N2 and that wasn't included in the vaccine so people are going to be prone to get that and it can cause a very severe illness.”

That strain makes up around 70% of the flu hitting people now, with the other 30% being H1N1, which is prevented by the vaccine, so people should still get a flu shot if they haven't already.

But because so many people can still get it after being vaccinated, Doctor Skolnik and the CDC recommend people get tested immediately if they're suffering any of the symptoms.

“Influenza is characterized by fever, headache muscle aches, cough,” Dr. Skolnik said. “Those are the main symptoms.”

Doctor Skolnik said hospitals and doctors’ offices have treatments that can be lifesaving if the flu is detected early enough.

“The treatments will help people to get better more quickly, it helps prevent severe disease,” he said. “Every year there are 30,000 or 40,000 deaths from influenza in the United States. So these antiviral drugs help protect against that and some of the other complications that can occur.”

Testing can also help prevent the spread of the flu as people who test positive can isolate themselves and have others they've been in contact with tested too.

Doctor Skolnik said the rapid influenza test is available at most urgent care centers, most emergency departments, and at some primary care physicians.

While he said most severe complications happen with the very young and very old, he believes everyone should be tested if they begin to experience even one flu symptom.

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