Take my Flu Quiz today. If you get a perfect score, you can feel good about your knowledge. If you want to increase your chances of feeling good all winter, however, get vaccinated.
This week has been designated National Influenza Vaccination Week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) because:
a) The first week of December was taken.
b) It takes a while for the vaccine to provide full protection, and the peak of flu season is in January
c) That week didn’t interfere with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Ramadan
d) It takes a while for the vaccine to provide full protection, and the peak of flu season comes in February
The answer is “D.” It takes a few weeks to develop a full immune response to a flu vaccination, and that leaves plenty of time to gird our loins before the typical flu season peak in February.
People commonly misdiagnose the flu. Symptoms of the flu include:
a) High fever, feel like you got run over by a Zamboni, scratchy throat, dry cough
b) Runny nose, Kleenex marathon, nuggetty cough
c) Rash and a bad case of “the willies”
d) Nausea, vomiting and diarrhea
If you guessed “D” you’d be wrong, but certainly not alone. Many people confuse the flu with the hideous “stomach flu,” which is most often caused by an entirely different virus — the norovirus. Yes, children stricken with the flu can sometimes vomit or have diarrhea, but the classic symptoms of the flu are listed in “A”: high fever, severe muscle aches, and a dry, scratchy cough.
The best thing to do to alleviate flu symptoms is:
a) Gargle with ginseng
b) Suck on raisins soaked in honey and gin
c) Rummage through the medicine cabinet for anti-Zamboni pills
d) Call your doctor for an antibiotic
e) Keep the water and the Netflix coming!
Hydration, relaxation and isolation are key factors, so the answer is “E.” Over-the-counter medications are available that might help alleviate symptoms, but none has been shown to shorten the course of flu. There are physician-prescribed medications that can stop replication of the virus, but like firemen, they have to arrive early to really do any good. If these anti-viral medications aren’t started within 24-48 hours of symptoms, you might as well stick to the gin-soaked raisins.
The flu is spread by coughing and sneezing. How far can the average virus-laden snot droplet go?
a) 40 yards
b) 3 feet
c) 10 inches
d) This is America: even a snot droplet can go as far as it wants to as long as it’s willing to work hard and sacrifice.
The answer is “B,” 3 feet. Smaller droplets can become aerosolized and remain in the air much longer, but they carry far fewer numbers of contagion and are much less infective. And remember that on most surfaces a virus can survive inside a snot droplet for up to eight hours, giving it plenty of time to be transferred to the hands of the next unsuspecting victim.
A person infected with the flu virus can start spreading it a day or two prior to coming down with symptoms. How long before they stop spreading it?
a) Two days
b) Five days for an adult
c) A month of Sundays
d) Up to 10 days for a child
e) B and D
The answer is “E.” That means that a family of five could theoretically be capable of spreading the flu for a biblical 40 days.
The flu vaccine comes in two forms:
a) “Spicy Cajun” and “Liver ‘n Onions”
b) Through a needle or through the nose
c) Advanced Formula and Regular Strength
d) Dead or Alive
e) B and D
The answer is again “E.” The vaccine given as a shot contains virus that has been chopped up with a very tiny knife and rendered dead. As the Munchkin coroner said of the Wicked Witch, “Not only is she merely dead, she’s really most sincerely dead.” The vaccine that comes as a nasal spray, Flumist, is fully alive. In fact, it must vigorously reproduce inside the vaccinated patient’s nose in order to stimulate an adequate immune response. But no worry: The Flumist viral strains have been maimed, so that although they’re alive, they’re incapable of causing the flu.
Which of these groups is not eligible to get Flumist, the nasal vaccine?
a) People with very tiny noses, or very hairy noses
b) Ages 2-49
c) People with either asthma or significant medical problems
d) People with allergies to steel needles being driven into their shoulder
It’s “C.” Since the Flumist viral strain replicates in the nose, those who receive it will sometimes have a few days of mild cold symptoms (rather than a sore arm). Occasionally that process can trigger an asthma attack in an asthmatic child. Flumist is also not recommended for the youngest and the older populations, or for those with significant medical problems. That’s because those folks are at the highest risk for a bad tangle with the flu, and, practically speaking, the FDA doesn’t think that Flumist has enough of a track record to warrant giving it to them in place of the tried-and-true Shoulder Stab.
You get vaccinated for the flu. What is the chance you could catch it anyway?
a) Very slim: the flu vaccine is 99% effective
b) Small: the flu vaccine is 70-90% effective
c) Moderate: the flu vaccine is 50-60% effective
d) Nobody knows, really.
e) B, C and D
f) B, C, D, and F
g) Bb, Eb, Gm, A
The answer is “E.” If this year’s vaccine is a good match for the viruses that end up circulating this season, it can be 70 to 90 percent effective; if the match is not so good, it’s 50 to 60 percent protective. But like picking out a tattoo, there are a lot of individual factors that affect the outcome, so in the end, no one really knows.
An egg allergy is a contraindication to getting the flu vaccination because:
a) Chickens who cross the road don’t get the flu.
b) Flu vaccine viruses are grown inside of chicken eggs
c) It’s part of a secret government plot to marginalize those with egg allergies
d) Flu vaccine viruses are grown inside of a Denver omelet
The decision as to what strains will be included in this year’s flu vaccine are made in February, because producing the vaccine is a lengthy (and ridiculously antiquated) process. The virus is cultivated inside of chicken eggs and then put through an extraction and purification process. Invariably, a few egg proteins make it into the final product. So the answer is “B.”
BONUS QUESTION: DOUBLE JEOPARDY (Very technical, seemingly)
Each vaccine is a “highlight reel” from the most active flu strains from around the world. This year’s vaccine includes three entirely different strains from last year’s. They are:
a) A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1), A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2), and B/Florida/4/2006.
b) A/Solomon Islands/3/2006, A/Wisconsin/67/2005, B/Green Bay/4/08
c) B/Ohio/01/2005, B/Malaysia/2506/2004, B/Movie/1301
d) B/Yamagata/16/88, B/Domoarigotomisterroboto (H2N3)
If you picked “A” you’re correct, and you’ve been spending too much time on the CDC website.