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NBC Montana fact checks common flu myths

By Alissa Irei, KTVM Anchor, airei@ktvm.com
Published On: Jan 25 2013 08:31:22 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 25 2013 08:35:15 PM MST
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Health experts are calling this flu season one of the worst in years, and some say it hasn't even reached its peak.

NBC Montana's Alissa Irei wanted to fact check some common flu myths, so she visited Bozeman Deaconess Hospital. There she talked to infectious disease physician, Dr. Mark Winton. He says he has seen a lot of flu this year, and a lot of misconceptions about the virus.

Fact or fiction: You don't need to get the flu shot if you rarely get sick.

Fiction.

"For some types of the flu, you're more likely to get it when you're young and healthy," Winton said.

Fact or fiction: If you don't feel sick, then you aren't contagious.

Fiction.

"There are some people who don't actually get sick with the flu, they don't have any symptoms," he said. "But they can still spread it."

Fact or fiction: You can get the flu from the flu shot.

Fiction.

"The flu shot is a killed vaccine; there isn't any live virus in it," Winton said. "You can get a fever, and some people get a sore arm after they get it. But you can't actually get influenza from the flu shot."

He says if you get sick a day or two after getting the shot, you probably got it too late. The vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective.

Fact or fiction: If you get the shot, you can still get the flu.

Fact.

"Unfortunately there's not a 100 percent match between the strains that circulate and the strains in the vaccine," Winton said, although he added that those who get the vaccine and still get sick often have milder symptoms.

Fact or fiction: It's too late to get the shot.

Fiction.

"Influenza A has probably peaked in our area, but Influenza B is on the rise," he said. "And there is a strain of B that is covered in the vaccine."

Winton said another common myth -- that the flu vaccine contains mercury -- is not true. In fact, he said the shot contains no preservatives at all. He added that the belief the vaccine causes autism in children is also a myth.

This year the flu is about 65 percent effective at preventing the virus. If you do get sick, Tamiflu antiviral medication can help, but you have to take it within 48 hours of the first symptoms.