Unedited transcript of flu chat with State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley, January 7, 2013

State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley chatted with readers and answered questions about flu symptoms and vaccines Monday on NewsOK.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: January 7, 2013 at 2:50 pm •  Published: January 7, 2013

Below is an unedited transcript of a chat with State Epidemiologist Kristy Bradley about flu symptoms and vaccines.

NewsOK 1:33 p.m. Hey everyone! Thanks for joining our flu chat today. We'll get started at 2 p.m., but you can start submitting your questions now.
Jaclyn Cosgrove 1:57 p.m. Hi everyone, we're just about to start. Dr. Bradley is ready to go, so we'll start the chat in about three minutes.
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:00 p.m. By my cell phone's calculations, it's 2 p.m. Thanks to everyone for joining us. And thank you, Dr. Bradley, for agreeing to answer some of our questions.
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:01 p.m. Thank you for inviting me to participate! I am looking forward to hearing what kind of questions everyone has.....
Guest 2:01 p.m. I work for a non-profit that serves the elderly on a daily basis. I'm 24 and very healthy. Not so concerned with myself, but what can I do to protect my clients from the flu?
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:04 p.m. One of the most important things you can do to protect your clients is to have all eldercare service workers get a flu shot. Of course it is also important to advise that your elderly client receives a flu vaccination. Other prevention methods are stressing good hand hygiene practices and informing any visitors that they shouldn't visit their elderly friend or relative if they are experiencing flu-like illness -- fever, cough, sore throat, etc.
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:04 p.m. We're getting a lot of great questions in. Keep them coming!
Tom Yeakley 2:04 p.m. I have flu like symptoms. Cough, heavy mucus production, aches, 100.5 fever. It hit me Thursday night. I realize it is too late to do anything now other than stay home, drink plenty of fluids and take Musinex, but do you advise that I get a flu shot once this is over?
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:07 p.m. Yes, once you've recuperated from your current respiratory illness, it would still be a good idea to get a seasonal flu vaccination, because the flu vaccination protects you three different types of influenza, i.e., two strains of type A flu and one strain of type B flu. It is possible to be exposed to different strains during a flu season and the risk of exposure to flu can extend until April or even May.
Larry W. 2:07 p.m. Is it too late to get shot this year and how long until it becomes effective?
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:08 p.m. As an aside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a wealth of information on its website. You can visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/ for the CDC's resources.
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:09 p.m. Hi Larry -- it's definitely not too late, but don't delay much longer. After you get a flu vaccination, it generally takes about 10-14 days to get full immunity from the vaccination. Then that protection gradually wanes over a year's time. This is one of the reasons persons over 6 months old are recommended to get a flu shot every year.
Guest 2:10 p.m. What is the incubation period for influenza? How is it transmitted? What are the initial symptoms? How long do you have to get to a physician and get Tamiflu for it to be effective?
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:11 p.m. Also, if you have kids (or creative adults), the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases has a coloring book about the flu available for free download. You can visit this link to see the coloring book: http://www.flufacts.com/pdf/FluFighter_Coloring_Book.pdf
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:12 p.m. And one of our guests has pointed out that there's also information at OUMedicine.com/flu. Thanks for that!
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:14 p.m. We have several more questions to answer, but we have plenty of time left, so feel free to submit your questions. Thank you for your active participation!
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:15 p.m. The incubation period for influenza -- that is the time between exposure to the flu virus and the time to first onset of flu symptoms -- ranges from 1 to 5 days with an average of 2 days. Influenza is spread mostly through respiratory droplets containing the virus that are produced when someone who is sick with the flu coughs, sneezes, laughs or talks to spray out the droplets a few feet. If those droplets land on another person's face, mouth, or eyes, they've essentially been exposed to the flu virus. The virus can also live on surfaces like doorknobs, telephones, hands, and keyboards for several hours. If you touch a contaminated surface and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, you've inoculated yourself with the virus. Regarding the use of Tamiflu, it works best if you get to your physician within 2 days of symptoms starting.
sheri 2:15 p.m. Has all mercury been removed from all of the flu shots? Also, are there currently any heavy metals used as ingredients in flu shots?
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:17 p.m. Most vaccines that are currently distributed today contain no mercury-containing perservatives, or just a tiny amount of Thimersol that is considered safe. There are influenza vaccines that are Thimerosol-free, so you can request one of those brands of flu vaccine if you are still concerned.
Guest 2:18 p.m. What are the most common flu-like symptoms?
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:21 p.m. I wrote a story this weekend about previous flu pandemics. If you're curious about that, visit http://newsok.com/the-history-of-flu-pandemics-learning-from-past-crises/article/3743458
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:22 p.m. Also, here's some info on where to get your flu shot: http://newsok.com/where-to-get-flu-shot/article/3743459
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:23 p.m. Good question because there are several different respiratory viruses that spread in a community at the same time that influenza is circulating! Influenza generally hits you much more quickly and with much more than a punch than cold viruses. With influenza, most affected persons will have a sudden onset of fever (100- 102 degrees or higher), headache, sore throat and extreme body aches. This rapidly progresses to cough, fever, chills and feeling like you were hit by a truck. Most people who have the flu will not be able to go to work or school, whereas with a cold, people feel sort of miserable with cough, congestion and post-nasal drip, but they still have the energy to do other things.
KEG 2:23 p.m. Why is Tamiflu so expensive?
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:26 p.m. You're right -- Tamiflu is pretty pricey. I can't provide the exact reason that Tamiflu is a higher priced medication, but factors such as how long the drug has been FDA-approved and in general distribution, cost of components to make the drug, and volume demand all have a role. Currently it is too early to have a generic equivalent of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) available for patients.
Carrie 2:27 p.m. My daughter is 3 years old. We've taken her to a couple of drop-in clinics to try to get a shot, but they've turned her away because she's too young. We were thinking it would save time to get her shot at a pharmacy or department store clinic, but we can't find one that does anyone younger than 7. Why is that?
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:29 p.m. We're just about to wrap up our chat, so submit any questions you might have now. We appreciate all of your feedback.
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:31 p.m. Younger children can display more anxiety and apprehension about receiving a vaccination, so there are special handling techniques that nurses and other healthcare providers learn to deal with children who may get very stressed over receiving an immunization. This is one reason why pharmacies may shy away from offering immunizations to younger children since it is not yet a routine practice. One option for you is to take your child to your local county health department.
Don 2:31 p.m. What benefit to a child under 2 including inside the mother can you conclusively cite that would support giving a vaccine to a woman or a child under the age of 2?
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:35 p.m. The CDC and the Oklahoma State Department of Health strongly encourage that children between the ages of 6 months and 4 years receive an annual influenza vaccination because this age group can be at greater risk of serious medical complications from influenza. In some cases, children even die from flu-related complications. So far this year, 18 pediatric influenza-related deaths have been reported to the CDC. The influenza vaccinations are very safe and the benefits of disease protection from vaccination far outweigh the potential consequences. There are numerous studies that provide evidence of the benefits of vaccinating young children against flu and other diseases (like whooping cough and measles). Women who are pregnant are also strongly recommended to get a flu shot because they are a group that is at increased risk of medical complications from the flu.
Allyson 2:36 p.m. I am an elementary school administrator. We resumed classes today. I am very concerned about the flu spreading in my school once all of the children are back together. I have instructed the teachers to continue to promote regular hand washing, proper sneezing and coughing, etc... I have also provided Clorox wipes and lysol spray for each classroom. Is there anything else you would recommend to help us prevent or reduce a flu outbreak?
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:40 p.m. If you're curious about the amount of flu activity we're seeing in Oklahoma, visit the state Health Department's site: http://www.ok.gov/health/Disease,_Prevention,_Preparedness/Acute_Disease_Service/Disease_Information/OK_Flu_View.html
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:40 p.m. Hi Allyson! It is very gratifying to hear about all of the great steps you have taken to reduce the spread of flu in your school. If it is not on your list of steps to take, we would encourage that teachers (or a school nurse on site) do a preliminary check of students at the beginning of the day to make sure everyone looks healthy enough to be in the classroom. Any children (or staff) who look flushed, feverish, or coughing, should be asked to step out and have their temperature taken. If they have a fever of 100 degree or higher, arrangements should be made to send them home. Children who are recovering from the flu should not return until at least 24 hours have passed since their temperature returned to normal (without the use of fever-reducing medications).
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:41 p.m. That wraps up our chat. Thank you everyone who joined us. Feel free to contact me at jcosgrove@opubco.com or on Twitter at @jaclyncosgrove if you have any questions or comments.
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:41 p.m. And thank you Dr. Bradley for joining us and answering all of our questions!
Dr. Kristy Bradley 2:42 p.m. You're quite welcome! I hope everyone stays healthy this flu season. Remember to practice a healthy lifestyle -- get plenty of rest, don't smoke, exercise regularly and eat your fruits and veggies!
Jaclyn Cosgrove 2:43 p.m. Thanks everyone! Have a great day.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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