Presented by Centers Urgent Care
‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’, Benjamin Franklin famously said. As one of the Brooklyn leaders in Urgent Care, our mission is to provide the highest quality care to those in need of a cure. In our new ‘Ask the Doctor’ column, we hope to expand on our services and provide the community with valuable information that will assist with prevention of potential illnesses and diseases.
In this new series, we will interview leading medical professionals and ask the questions that are on the minds of many, in order to gain clarity on often-complex medical issues and learn the vital information needed to prevent unfortunate health problems.
For our inaugural feature, we sat down with Dr. Josef Schenker, Medical Director at Centers Urgent Care. Our conversation covered two hot topics of the day; the upcoming flu season and the recent measles outbreak. We are grateful to Dr. Schenker, who took time out of his extremely busy schedule to provide us with a double dose of prevention.
The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
The influenza virus (flu)
Question: What are early symptoms that you might be coming down with the flu?
Dr. Schenker: Someone with the flu will generally have high fever, and experience general fatigue or soreness along with feeling congested. Many flu symptoms might appear similar to cold symptoms, but they are generally more severe and come on more quickly.
Q: What should one do if he feels he’s coming down with something that might be the flu?
A: On this your mother was right…. The best thing for your body is to get extra rest and drink lots of fluid. If you are a healthy individual, your immune system will do its job effectively if you help it out by taking care of yourself. One can also take Motrin or Tylenol if needed to relieve pain of reduce fevers.
Q: Should everyone get vaccinated against the influenza virus?
A: The short answer is yes. Unless you are allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, it’s smart to protect yourself by getting an annual vaccine.
Q: Are there downsides to getting vaccinated?
A: Other than for the aforementioned people who are allergic, these vaccines have been rigorously tested and there should be zero serious side effects.
Q: What about people who took vaccines and still got the flu?
A: The influenza virus has many strains. Even if you are immune to one of them, you might be able to catch a different strain. Doctors update the vaccines every year to try and stay ahead of the virus, but it can’t be guaranteed against all strains.
Q: Can you get the flu twice in one season?
A: It doesn’t happen too often, but it can happen if, as we mentioned before, there are a few different strains going around. If you built up the antibodies to block off one strain, a different strain might still be able to make you sick.
Q: Why does the flu go around specifically during this time of the year?
A: In the winter, your immune system is weakened and the colder, dryer weather is more conducive to the virus’ survival. Additionally, because we spend so much more time indoors, in close proximity to each other and without much air circulation, these viruses have the opportunity to keep on traveling from person to person.
Q: How long after you feel symptoms are you still contagious?
A: The general answer is to stay away from other people for at least 4 days after the symptoms first appeared.
Q: Is there anything other than getting vaccinated that people can do to protect themselves?
A: Wash your hands, stay warm, don’t share utensils, drink enough fluids and eat healthy. Although nothing is perfect, proper hygiene and taking care of your body will go a long way towards proper prevention.
Q: Parents who have kids with flu, do they have to worry about catching it from there child?
A: Healthy adults generally have a much stronger immune system that has been built up over the years. That is why children have many more illnesses than adults do. However, an adult can still catch the flu from a child so make sure to always wash your hands and try to avoid unnecessary contact with someone who has the flu.
Q: Can the flu be deadly?
A: It is rare. When we do hear of such stories it is often because of the flu causing the body to weaken, thereby allowing bacterial infections like pneumonia to take hold. A healthy person who does what the doctor recommends should be fine.
Q: When does the flu call for a doctor’s visit? How about an ER visit?
A: Emergency room visits are for patients who experience severe symptoms like shortness of breath or dizziness. Doctors will often administer IV to keep patients hydrated.
Q: What will a doctor do if I have the flu?
A: If you are still within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms, doctors will often prescribe an antiviral medication like Tamiflu, which should shorten the illness and prevent further complications..
Q: What is measles?
A: Measles is a highly-contagious viral disease that causes rashes, high fever and other painful symptoms. It had been mostly eradicated through vaccination, but unfortunately, we still do experience some outbreaks.
Q: Can doctors treat measles or only manage the symptoms?
A: Since it’s a viral infection, there is no medication to ‘cure’ measles but fortunately our bodies are good at overcoming viruses if we rest and stay hydrated. Over-the-counter medications can assist with alleviating some of the discomfort.
Q: In what ways can measles be passed along?
A; Measles is a very contagious virus and can spread to others through sneezing or coughing. Measles can stay in the air for up to two hours after an infected individual has been there!
Q: If someone wasn’t vaccinated can they still get a vaccine after a vaccine has occurred?
A: If you haven’t been infected with measles yet, then it’s not too late to receive one, even during an active outbreak.
Q; If someone was vaccinated, is it still possible to get measles?
A: The chances are very small, even if you come in contact with a measles patient.
Q: How do we prevent the disease from spreading?
A: Patients need to be quarantined (be in isolation) from when symptoms arrive until 4 days after the rash appears.
Q: How long will the current outbreak last.
A: It is impossible to predict. Once all infected people are isolated and it stops spreading, only then is are things safe again.