This flu season is turning out to be a nasty one. According to state health officials, the flu has already resulted in the death of 27 Californians younger than 65 –that’s compared with 3 at this time last year. Officials also note that the flu vaccine is approximately 32 percent effective this year. Has your family been hit by the flu? How are you coping and what questions do you have?

Guests:
Charles Chiu,
professor of medicine, UCSF

Jeffrey Silvers, medical director, pharmacy and infection prevention for Sutter Health

Flu Season Strains Resources as Hospitalizations, Deaths are Up 9 January,2018Michael Krasny

  • jakeleone

    If I wear a medial mask when I am around people, what are my chances of getting a cold or flu?

    • Reverend Lurlean Tucker

      Do you also wear gloves? They’d probably afford more protection.

    • Charles Chiu

      They can serve as temporary protection against mucosal exposure, but many cases are transmitted by your hands (infected) touching your face, mouth, lips, etc. and N-95 masks are not useful as barrier protection once they become wet.

  • EIDALM

    The 1918 influenza A pandemic was caused by H1N1 virus, it infected more than 500 million people Worldwide, and led to the death of 50 to 100 million people across the World, it also infected and caused the sickness of near 25% of all the U S citizens, and caused the death of estimated 675 hundred thousands Americans, Since then the virus have been constantly mutating to the Current N2H3 due to the process of virus always changing to combating the human immune system, and that will continue till the virus reach it;s ultimate deadly form that combine the extreme continuous nature of N2H3, with the extremely deadly bird flue virus H5N7b, and when this mutation ever happen, which I believe it will, a Worldwide Pandemic of catastrophic nature which may result in the death of billions of people across the planet.

    • William – SF

      So you’re saying voting for Oprah is pointless?

    • Charles Chiu

      Yes, avian influenza is of great concern given its high mortality. To date, human-to-human transmission has been inefficient and rare This is yet another reason why vaccination as a public health strategy is so important, to limit the overall number of infections in the community which will restrict the possibility that a reassortment event will happen, leading to a pandemic.
      http://www.virology.ws/2009/06/29/reassortment-of-the-influenza-virus-genome/

      • EIDALM

        Totally agree, I also would like to mention that during the 1918 flue pandemic great number of the victims were young healthy adults whose immune system over reacted to the presence of the virus in their body, that is very similar to the Hantavirus outbreak in the U S some years ago, near all of the victims were young healthy adults.

  • EIDALM

    Near all flue pandemic are initiated in the orient, specially China where people live in extreme proximity with animals, specially swine and fowels specially chicken and ducks where viruses from these creatures are always exchanging and mutating in combination of the human viruses with deadly results to humans………I renumber the Hong Kong Flue that sickened hundreds of millions of people across the World and the in the U S, and sickened me and my girlfriend Anne for over 2 weeks. as did many people in Berkeley, the whole Bay Area, and the entire U S and the World.

  • sstanley

    I had the stomach flu for a couple of days last week…..was this “the flu”?

    • Noelle

      It’s a gastrointestinal variant

      • William – SF

        What differentiates a stomach flu from food poisoning?

        • Noelle

          you need to have a test to detect influenza, and test for gastroenteritis bacterial bugs

        • Charles Chiu

          Food poisoning is occurs within hours of ingestion (6 hours) and it due to preformed toxins, usually bacterial, in contaminated food (e.g. from Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, Clostridium perfringens, etc.). Stomach flu = viral gastroenteritis, and is a (usually) self-limited viral infection associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes fever.

    • Charles Chiu

      no, “stomach flu” = “viral gastroenteritis” (or sometimes bacterial gastroenteritis) and should not be confused with influenza

  • Noelle

    Even if you get the vaccine and you catch the flu at least it is supposed to make it less severe.

  • Sanfordia113

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but I seem to remember that the flu vaccines have failed to be broadly effective in more than 50% of the past 10 flu seasons. This fact is probably why many in the population are skeptical about vaccines. Does flu vaccine failure impact parentss’ Reluctance to submit their children to standard childhood immunizations?

    • Charles Chiu

      You are correct, but even a partially effective vaccine is better than no vaccination at all, for reasons I outline in a previous reply (above).

  • trite

    Can you talk about the stomach flu.

    • Charles Chiu

      see above — “stomach flu” = “viral gastroenteritis” and should not be confused with influenza

  • joesposted

    The first 10 minutes of the show has the guests vehemently selling the vaccine and skirting Michael’s questions. There has been so many state-sponsored admonitions to get a vaccine to the benefit of the pharmaceutical companies. Are there any long-term effects of so many people using the vaccine such as building tolerance and mutation of the influenza virus?

    • Charles Chiu

      The vaccine has not been associated mutation of the influenza virus. On the contrary, because the vaccine prevents flu illnesses and hospitalizations (estimated 1.1-5 million cases per season, see Kostova, et al., PloS ONE 2013 http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0066312), there are fewer cases resulting in fewer opportunities for the virus to replicate in the human host and mutate), thus leading to less, not more mutation. Vaccines are not the same as antibiotic; overuse of antibiotics can lead to bacterial resistance, but more widespread use of vaccine does not lead to influenza mutation and/or resistance.

      The issue of tolerance is less clear-cut, and has been reviewed in Belongia, et al., Expert Review of Vaccines, 2017 (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14760584.2017.1334554). The key take home-messages are that the effects of repeat vaccination are quite variable and studies to date have been very limited (and thus more research is needed). The overall effectiveness of the flu vaccine is any given season appears to be driven more by mismatches between circulating and vaccine strains (from natural virus mutations and egg-induced adaptive mutations) — see https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/vaccination/effectiveness-studies.htm.

  • William – SF

    While the flu vaccine is recommended for the vulnerable, is it negatively contributing to the flu virus (or other viruses)?

    • Charles Chiu

      No, as I stated in a prior reply, there is no evidence that the flu vaccine contributes to influenza mutation or increased infection from other respiratory viruses.

  • Noelle

    getting enough sleep, dealing with stress effectively and hand washing probably help underlying resistance to infection.

  • Bond

    All the prevention advice, besides vaccination, was directed at current sufferers, to prevent spreading the flu. That’s worrisome, because people behave very badly now about spreading disease. People cough & sneeze without covering up effectively out at all on my buses all the time! One guy sneezed right on the back of my head! No apology! We need some kind of enforcement, or, e.g., businesses, restaurants, & public transit will have to be shut down.

    • Charles Chiu

      Influenza transmission is primarily by respiratory droplets or by contact with infected secretions. To avoid catching the flu (in addition to vaccination), personal measures that you can adopt include (1) rigorous handwashing (and/or carry sanitizer). (2) avoiding close contact with people who are sick and actively sneezing/coughing, and (3) avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth (direct transmission is via inoculation of mucosal surfaces).

  • Robert Thomas

    I grew up thinking that gastritis or gastroenteritis (“stomach flu”) was influenza, because my mother said it was so. My mother thought a lot of goofy things about illnesses. Gastroenteritis is NOT influenza. Multiplication of influenza virus in the alimentary tract doesn’t occur.

    • Noelle

      well, according to ICD-10 medical codes there is J10.2: “influenza due to other identified influenza virus with gastrointestinal manifestations”. the thing is, most doctors don’t give you the flu test or test for gastrointestinal bacterial infections so it could be either one.

      • Robert Thomas

        I’m not sure I understand what’s meant by “manifestations” but everything I’ve read about the influenza virus insists that it’s a respiratory infection and that it doesn’t proliferate in the GI tract. On the other hand, my doctor told me that the vast majority of infections that cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, nausea and so on are due to infection by a member of the distinct universe of bugs that cause enteritis. I believe him more than I believe my mother.

    • Charles Chiu

      You are right. “Stomach flu” is a misnomer — the more precise term is “gastroenteritis”, commonly caused by a number of diarrheal viruses (norovirus, astrovirus, sapovirus, adenovirus, rotavirus, etc.). Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can be seen in acute influenza infection, especially in children, but is not a cardinal manifestation of influenza, which is a respiratory and/or systemic (throughout the whole body) illness.

  • Amy_D

    The use of holistic medicines has been very effective in our home this year. Anti-viral essential oils (oregano, clove, lemon, etc.), wild cherry bark elixirs, and even the introduction of CBD oil has cured everyone from the flu to basic symptoms (ages 3-40) like the ever-lasting cough! While I can see the value of vaccinations for some people, we had a bad experience when my child was a baby, and I have never gotten flu vaccinations since. Personally, I have not had a flu vaccination in over 20 years! The earth has a lot more to offer than we take advantage of, and the strains of viruses seem to worsen every year.

  • Tahoee

    I watched certain videos circulated on social media about some people developing neorological diseases or irreversible side effects after taking the flu shot. Is there any truth to this? What are the chances if of this happening if there’s some truth to it?

    • Charles Chiu

      You may be referring to Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a rare disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks the peripheral nerves, leading to muscle weakness, numbness/tingling, and ascending paralysis. It is an extremely rare complication of vaccination (approximately one in a million). It is more likely that you will develop GBS from getting the flu, rather from the vaccine. There is a description of GBS as it relates to vaccine safety on the CDC website —
      https://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/concerns/guillain-barre-syndrome.html

  • fefi fofum

    If this is a real Public Health issue, then why is there so little Public Notice of Annual Flu Shot Availability on TV with Kidnap Alerts and on underused big electronic highway sign boards and Radio and tiny papers like Chronicle and Examiner?
    Every year I have to call Kaiser and the VA and Walgreen’s and Costco, repeatedly!
    I want it early, in September, because it takes “at least 2 wks to be effective”.
    I have had 2wk bed flu 2yrs in a row and Want any 30% flu shot!

Host

Michael Krasny

Michael Krasny, PhD, has been in broadcast journalism since 1983. He was with ABC in both radio and television and migrated to public broadcasting in 1993. He has been Professor of English at San Francisco State University and also taught at Stanford, the University of San Francisco and the University of California, as well as in the Fulbright International Institutes. A veteran interviewer for the nationally broadcast City Arts and Lectures, he is the author of a number of books, including “Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Literary Life” (Stanford University Press) “Spiritual Envy” (New World); “Sound Ideas” (with M.E. Sokolik/ McGraw-Hill); “Let There Be Laughter” (Harper-Collins) as well as the twenty-four lecture series in DVD, audio and book, “Short Story Masterpieces” (The Teaching Company). He has interviewed many of the world’s leading political, cultural, literary, science and technology figures, as well as major figures from the world of entertainment. He is the recipient of many awards and honors including the S.Y. Agnon Medal for Intellectual Achievement; The Eugene Block Award for Human Rights Journalism; the James Madison Freedom of Information Award; the Excellence in Journalism Award from the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association; Career Achievement Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and an award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association. He holds a B.A. (cum laude) and M.A. from Ohio University and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin.

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