Influenza

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now recommends that everyone age 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine. This is especially important for health care workers, and for persons with frequent infections or chronic health problems. International travelers and caregivers for infants and adults are also strongly encouraged to receive the vaccine.

Can I get a flu vaccine at Foxhall Internists?
Flu shots are available on a walk-in basis in room 304 between 9 a.m. and 12 noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. for patients age 15 and older. They are also available in our lab with an order from your doctor.

A high dose flu vaccine is available for patients age 65 and older. Although use of this vaccine has been associated with a greater antibody response, there is not yet evidence that this results in a significant reduction in the risk of flu.

We also offer FluMist for healthy adults up to age 49. Studies indicate that this may offer greater protection against influenza than the standard intramuscular injection.

In addition to FluMist, we offer Fluzone Intradermal. The intradermal flu vaccine is a shot that is injected into the skin instead of the muscle. The intradermal shot uses a much smaller needle than the regular flu shot but works in the body in the same way as a regular flu shot.

What is influenza?
Influenza, commonly known as "the flu", is a viral infection that generally begins with high fever (typically between 100.5º and 103º F), marked fatigue, and muscle aching. The onset of symptoms is often abrupt, causing people to realize that something is wrong. This is usually followed by a sore throat, sinus congestion, and cough. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea and diarrhea, may accompany the illness.

It is important to distinguish influenza from "common cold" viruses. Common colds typically consist of a sore throat, nasal congestion and cough, but do not cause the abrupt onset of high fever and intense weakness and aching. People often use the term "stomach flu" to describe a viral infection that causes nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, but this is unrelated to the influenza virus.

Identifying influenza symptoms is important, because there is effective treatment if the treatment is begun quickly – anti-influenza medicines are effective only if taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.

How do I know if I have influenza?
If you have symptoms typical for influenza as noted above, it is important to call our office. Our secretaries have been trained to ask you a series of questions to help your doctor distinguish possible influenza and pneumonia from common colds.

If your doctor determines that you should be seen in the office, we will attempt to see you as soon as possible. When you arrive in the office, you may be taken directly to your doctor’s exam room. Alternately, you may be asked to wear a mask while you are in the waiting room, or to wait in a separate area specifically equipped to reduce the spread of infections.

In addition to an office examination, your doctor may determine that additional testing is needed. This may include a "rapid influenza" test performed in our laboratory, that can confirm the presence of influenza virus and the need for appropriate treatment.

How is influenza treated?
There are only two drugs available in the U.S. for treatment of both influenza A and B – oseltamivir (Tamiflu), and zanamivir (Relenza). Two older drugs, amantadine and rimantadine, are effective only for treatment of influenza A. If any of these drugs is taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms due to influenza infection, and the virus is not resistant to the medication, it can reduce the severity of these symptoms, and may shorten the total duration of illness by 1-2 days. These drugs are only effective against influenza, and will not have any effect against other respiratory cold viruses.

Where can I find further information on influenza?
The CDC maintains a website with reliable information on human influenza as well as avian flu. The directory for this information can be found at http://www.cdc.gov/flu.