Influenza vs. ‘Stomach flu’
How many times have you heard others tell you they have the flu? Now what do they mean by that – do they mean influenza or “stomach flu?”
Both are viruses but the influenza is a respiratory illness with symptoms of coughing, sneezing, fever and body aches. Stomach flu, as society has called it for years, is gastroenteritis most often caused by a norovirus.
How Does Stomach Flu Differ From Influenza?
Stomach flu actually refers to gastroenteritis or irritation and inflammation of the stomach and intestines (the gastrointestinal tract). Gastroenteritis may be caused by a virus, bacteria, parasites in spoiled food or unclean water, or another trigger such as lactose intolerance, which causes a reaction to dairy products.
Influenza (flu), on the other hand, is a viral infection that mimics a cold except that it starts forcefully with symptoms of fatigue, fever, and respiratory congestion. While more than 100 different virus types can cause a common cold, only influenza virus types A, B, and C cause flu. More severe cases of influenza can lead to life-threatening illnesses such as pneumonia.
In addition, while antibiotics can treat a bacterial infection that may cause gastroenteritis, antibiotics cannot treat influenza because flu is caused by a virus.
What Are the Symptoms of Stomach Flu?
Symptoms of gastroenteritis or stomach flu include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Stomach pain
What Are the Symptoms of Influenza?
Influenza (also known as the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Who should get the Influenza vaccine this season?
Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu vaccine this season. This recommendation has been in place since February 24, 2010 when CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted for “universal” flu vaccination in the United States to expand protection against the flu to more people.
Most of the H3N2 viruses circulating are “drifted” or different from the H3N2 vaccine virus; suggesting that the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced. Two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccines will protect a person from flu illness: 1) characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health), and 2) the similarity or “match” between the flu viruses in the vaccine and those spreading in the community.
CDC continues to recommend flu vaccination even when there are drifted viruses circulating because the vaccine can still prevent infection and also prevent serious flu-related complications in many people. Anyone who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should do so now. This includes people who may already have gotten the flu this season because flu vaccines protect against three or four different viruses and it’s possible that other viruses will circulate later in the season. It’s fairly common for there to be two waves of flu activity during a season, the second wave is often caused by an influenza B.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine this season, it’s especially important for some people to get vaccinated.
Those people include the following:
- People who are at high risk of developing serious complications (like pneumonia) if they get sick with the flu.
- .People who have certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
- Pregnant women.
- People younger than 5 years (and especially those younger than 2), and people 65 years and older.
- People who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications (see list above). ?Household contacts and caregivers of people with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
- Household contacts and caregivers of infants less than 6 months old.
- Health care personnel.
Nationally the country is likely to continue to experience several more weeks of flu activity as flu spreads to other states that have not yet had significant activity. Activity has been elevated in the Southern states for six weeks now. The mid-west saw increases in activity more recently. Most of the northeast and west of the country has yet to experience the full brunt of the flu season.
The Student Health Center has a limited quantity of Influenza vaccines still available. Please call ( 330)-569-5418 to schedule you vaccination appointment.
The single best way to protect against the Influenza virus is to get vaccinated each year.
Content source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD), 2014.