UW Health experts debunk common myths about influenza, vaccine

MADISON, Wis. — As coronavirus cases continue to surge around the state, health officials are concerned that COVID-19 and the flu could cause a “twindemic,” which is why experts say it’s especially important to get the flu shot this year to avoid contracting the flu and COVID-19 at the same time.

Experts at UW Health are sharing information to help debunk seven common myths about the flu in an effort to encourage the public to get the influenza vaccine this year.

With flu season just around the corner, health experts are reminding the public that the flu, which is a serious virus itself, is not more dangerous than COVID-19. Both viruses have similar symptoms and can be fatal, but they have major differences. According to UW Health, COVID-19 appears to be more contagious than the flu. The risk for severe illness like lung injury is also believed to be more frequent with COVID-19. Officials say the COVID-19 mortality rate is also higher with the coronavirus.

While many people believe the flu shot will protect against the “stomach flu,” that is not the case, according to health experts. Stomach flu, or gastroenteritis, happens when the stomach and intestines become inflamed and irritated, often leading to vomiting and diarrhea. The flu shot protects against influenza, which causes respiratory symptoms like fever, cough, congestion, fatigue, and in serious cases, pneumonia.

According to UW Health experts, the flu shot contains an inactive form of the virus that cannot cause an infection. The vaccine typically takes two weeks to take effect, so there is a chance for infection after vaccination, but it is not because of the vaccine itself.

Experts say that it’s important to get the vaccine every year because it become less effective over time. The individual strains of influenza also change over time, which means the vaccine formula changes each year.

Some people are nervous to get the flu shot because they are nervous about certain ingredients used in some vaccines. UW Health experts say all reputable research shows that the ingredients are not harmful in the tiny amounts used in the vaccines.

While some people may believe it’s too late to get a flu shot by November, that’s not true, according to the experts. Flu season can last through April so getting a shot late is better than skipping it.

Finally, UW Health experts say that everyone 6 months old and older should get vaccinated. Vaccines are not just for people with an increased risk of infection because the virus can cause serious illness in otherwise healthy people.

For more information about the flu, visit UW Health’s website.