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Understanding the Difference between the Flu and the Stomach Flu

Community Care Physicians - Not sure if you have the flu or the stomach bug? Here are some clues that will help you figure it out!

Understanding the Difference between the Flu and the Stomach Flu

There is a common misconception between the stomach flu (Gastroenteritis) and the flu (Influenza) and many people often self-diagnose, which can be dangerous at times. So what is the difference between the two?

What is Influenza?

Influenza (the Flu) is a virus that causes fever, congestion, couch, muscle aches, and fatigue. Usually, the flu affects the body fairly quickly. The flu is an extremely contagious respiratory disease and is spread from person to person by direct touching or touching objects infected with the virus. The flu is also spread through the air. The flu season can start as early as October and run as late as May, but usually peaks in January or February.

What are the Symptoms?

The symptoms of Influenza are: fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, cough, chills, runny nose and fatigue. The flu is not accompanied by vomiting. Often, these symptoms can come on very suddenly.

Is Influenza Serious?

The biggest danger with the Flu is that is weakens your immune system which makes it difficult for you to fight other infections that you might get while you have the flu, such as pneumonia. These infections can cause death in some cases.

How Can I Prevent Influenza?

The Flu can easily be prevented by a simple vaccine. If you are a current Community Care patient, ask your doctor for the flu vaccine. Or if you are not currently a patient, walk-ins are welcome at our Urgent Care to receive your flu shot!

The influenza (flu) viruses selected for inclusion in the seasonal flu vaccines are updated each year based on which influenza virus strains are circulating, how they are spreading, and how well current vaccine strains protect against newly identified strains. Currently, 141 national influenza centers in 111 countries conduct year-round surveillance for influenza and study influenza disease trends, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. So even if the exact strain isn't anticipated, as in the case this year, getting the vaccine is still a good idea because if you were to get the flu, the symptoms you would get would not be as bad as they would be if you did not get the vaccine.

You can also help prevent yourself from getting the flu, whether or not you have had the vaccine, if you wash your hands after touches contaminated surfaces and washing them often.

What is the Stomach Flu (Gastroenteritis)?

The stomach flu is not a viral infection like the "Flu" is, rather it is an infection of the stomach and intestines. Though the most common cause of gastroenteritis is viral, less commonly they can also be caused by bacteria and viruses. These infectious agents are spread through close contact with the infected individual. It may also be spread by eating or drinking contaminated foods or beverages.

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of the stomach flu include nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea, and a possible fever.

Is the Stomach Flu Serious?

The stomach flu is generally not a serious infection. Most people recover fairly quickly. It can, however, become serious when infants or elderly individuals are infected, as they may be unable to drink enough fluids to replace what they lose through vomiting and diarrhea.

How Can I Prevent the Stomach Flu?

Make sure to wash your hands frequently and disinfecting contaminated surfaces. There is no vaccine for the stomach flu.

Flu Shot

It's extremely important to get your flu shot this time of year and to constantly wash your hands and clean contaminated surfaces in order to avoid illness.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Selecting the Viruses in the Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine
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