You Asked About The Flu
you're listening to shortwave from NPR. Hey everybody matty Safai here with short reporter. Emily Qualms Heo so today. We we have a listener questions episode. I genuinely love trying to answer. All of your questions and this one is all about Influenza Aka the flu the flu infects a lot of people every year. It's hard to say just how many but according to the CDC's current estimate between thirty seven and forty three million people in the United States got infected last flu season while that's roughly the population of the entire state of California right and year after year. Here we have this battle with the flu and that's partially because there are a lot of flu viruses out there and they are constantly changing. So here's how that works when the flu makes little copies of itself which it does over and over really fast there can be mutations in their DNA that can kind of change the virus enough that our bodies can't recognize it anymore or a vaccine wreck scene doesn't work against it and that's one of the reasons why we have to get the flu vaccine every single year. There's constantly this changing of flu viruses irises. That render people over time susceptible to getting reinfected so it's sort of like evolution on a really fast scale. That's Dr Nicole Bouvier. She works at the ICAHN School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Dr Bouvier you treat patients but you also do research on the flu as well right I do. Oh that's kind of like showing off a little bit. Well it's the best of both worlds. I think I really liked patients but I don't like waking up early so the lab is perfect for that so today on the show. We'll be answering your questions about how to tell if you have the flu. What's up with the flu vaccine? And why you you shouldn't freak out if your arm hurts after getting the flu shot mm-hmm support for this. NPR podcast comes from Sierra Nevada. Brewing Company family owned operated and argued over were since nineteen eighty proud supporter of Independent. Thought whether that's online over the air or antibiotic more at Sierra Nevada Dot Com Okay Emily our first listener. Question is all about figuring out whether or not you actually have the flu. Okay just fine gone. Hello I am. This is portfolio. What distinguishes have to call on cold? Okay so what makes the flu different than the Common Colt sued. The first thing to know is that the flu and the cold are caused by different viruses. Right but they're both respiratory infections. Meaning they affect your mouth and lungs and nose like Mike where air is exchanged and the cold pretty much only messes with you in that area. Here's what doctors said so all the symptoms that you experience things like a runny nose IOS or sore throat sneezing coughing. They're all sort of referred directly to the respiratory tract but the flu is much worse than the common cold right right. The flu. Who is garbage? It doesn't just stop respiratory tract. It like takes it all around the building her so with influenza. You get sort of what we call systemic symptoms which are things like fever fever lethargy not feeling like eating feeling like you get hit by a truck muscle aches headaches that Really with the common cold you tend and not to get right in the flu sometimes also kind of has a fever where the cold. You wouldn't necessarily. Yeah so that's fever is sort of the cardinal systemic symptom that we we look for with influenza And actually it's so common that in flu season You know when you know that flu is circulating in your community community if somebody has a fever and a cough they have something like an eighty percent likelihood of having influenza. Okay next question what do we got. Okay Hey Kwong. Here's a question for you. What's the best way to prevent the flu? I know this. It's the flu shot. I did receive mine this year. Yes nailed it. That's what the CDC says. Is there like go. Get your flu shot and a lot of our listeners. Were asking us about the safety of the flu shot. And we're talking like the needle in the arm. Flu shot kind so I asked Dr Bouvier about it. So can you get the flu from the flu shot. No okay. Why is that so the process of making a flu shot starts starts with actual real live viruses that are used to infect eggs because they grow very well in x. but the processing of the eggs after the virus has grown involves multiple steps of killing the virus separating the virus into tiny little bits and pieces and then scooping out the bits that are important for the vaccine so that after all that process is done? There's no virus left and even if there was right you're putting it in your arm. which is he's like? There's no armed flew out. There exactly. Influenza viruses are designed or optimized chew infect your respiratory tract if you put them somewhere else. They're not going to do what they do. They're not gonna be able to grow the same way that they are in your respiratory tract and you're not going to get the symptoms that you get so bottom line. The flu shot. It's pretty pretty impossible to get the flu from. It is what I'm gathering completely impossible. Okay got it. What else do our dear shortwave listeners? To know about the flu okay. This question comes from Larssen's in Lilburn Georgia so I got the shot. A couple of weeks ago didn't hurt no big deal a couple hours later pain radiating all the way up to my shoulder and it stayed that way for almost a day. So what's happening after the injection. That is making my arm sore so I asked Dr Bouvier in a very professional manner. Is it because you've just been stabbed in the arm. That's part of it. I mean the the needle is quite small but you are putting a small amount of liquid into a small volume into a place. That normally really doesn't have something in it. So the other thing is you're essentially providing little chunks of this virus to your immune system in your muscle so in some cases the symptoms. Is that you experience after getting the flu shot or actually signs that your immune system is recognizing and adapting to those viral particles in the vaccine. And that's actually a good thing. So so for instance if you get a fever after a vaccine. It doesn't mean that you've gotten the flu from the flu vaccine. It means that your immune system is responding appropriately to the pathogen and sending sending out the alert signals to other parts of your immune system and cause you to have a fever right so you shouldn't freak out if you feel awesome so when my arm hurts After the flu shot which it did this year I should have just kissed my arm and been proud of my immune system. You should've you should be proud okay. So our next set of questions were really interesting interesting. Basically how flu shot is made and how effective it is so remember how I said. There are lots of types of flu virus out there. Yeah Taylor Trevathan from Greenville South Carolina. Here and what I've always wondered is how epidemiologist determine what strains of flu to vaccinate against so a lot of that is led by the World Health Organization the WHO has Has Influenza surveillance sites throughout the whole World Northern Hemisphere Southern hemisphere all over the place and what these sites do is they sample flu viruses from people wow and they characterize them in terms of what kind of immune response to you would need in order to prevent yourself from getting that virus and also they do sequencing to look at the the genetic code of the virus and twice a year once for the northern hemisphere and once for the Southern Hemisphere whol Oh convenience an expert panel of these surveillance sites and everybody shares their data and they try to sort of make essentially an educated guess as as to where the viruses going. And what will show up the next winter but the only thing that's predictable about flu is that it's unpredictable and we do our best but we don't always get it one hundred percent right relatable Hashtag short this is fascinating but how effective is the eventual vaccine wants. It's made an actually prevent people from getting the flu. So it's like a huge range right. The CDC says it generally lands somewhere in the forty to sixty percent range when we picked the right strains of flu to vaccinate against forty to sixty percent effective. Yes so let's say we're having a good year right like a fifty percent year. It's it's a little bit more complicated than this. But basically of all the people that got the flu shot and then got exposed to the virus. Half of them would get sick. Oh got it although although I have to say it's not as good as I thought it would be. Yeah I mean like we talked about. The flu is really tricky. It's a sneaky little snake that changes protein so we can't recognize it and the same goes for the the vaccine but what I really liked about talking. Dr Bouvier is the way she was really frank with us about how good the flu shot is she basically said like look it is not perfect but it is certainly better than not getting it so if the flu shot can't protect you from all strains of the flue why should we get it. So what the flu shot I can do is it can prevent a certain proportion of people from getting fluid all right and in the people who still get flu despite light having the flu shot it actually can make you less sick than you would have been if you didn't get the flu shot at all. You know if you were going to be in bed for three three days you might be in bed for two days right so you even. If you get the flu after the flu shot you're gonNA feel potentially less like garbage. Yes I'm on board with not feeling like garbage. Yeah that's the goal and it's mostly been shown in patients that are at a really high risk of complications because that's easier to study but doctors like Dr Rebate thing. That's probably true for healthy. Young folks just like you emily. You know the other reason to get a flu shot if you are young and healthy and don't think getting flu is a big deal is that you are the person who could be passing the virus on to somebody for whom it could be a big deal like ninety year old grandmother or your sister's brand new baby or your aunt who has cancer and those people who are at higher risk of complications. You don't WanNa be the one who then goes ahead and gives them the flu. And that's something that you young healthy people don't always think about but it it is actually a really important part of vaccination is that you're not just protecting yourself. You're protecting other people who either can't get the vaccine themself off or for whatever reason they won't respond to it quite as well so thank you Dr Bouvier for walking us through some flu questions from you all the listeners and thank you listeners for sending in questions to prompt this episode. If you have questions that you would like us to answer you can. Email us at shortwave at NPR dot. Org I'm emily and I managed to fire and this episode was produced by Brit Hanson and edited by the way. Get your flu shot yet. This has been NPR shortwave. We'll see you tomorrow. Forty years ago our militants sees one of the most important religious sites in the World Mecca. This week on through line. How this one one event changed Saudi Arabia and the Muslim world forever through line from N._p._R.? PODCAST will be go back in time to understand the president.