Flu myths - What you need to know

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- It's flu season and doctors say 5 to 20 percent of the population will get it this year, leading to about 30,000 deaths.

Despite the numbers, many people choose not to get a flu shot. Doctors say that's often due to commonly believed myths.

Dr. Brian Klausner is trying to clear up those misconceptions.

"I think as physicians and doctors we've all worked with patients who have done very poorly or who have gotten very sick or even died from the flu, and we see it firsthand," said Klausner.

For the WakeMed physician and other members of the medical community, the greatest tool to prevent that is the flu shot. However, one common reason doctors hear for not getting one is fear of getting sick from the shot, although Klausner says that's not the case.

"You're getting the flu shot in cold season, so there's a lot of illnesses, a lot of viruses out there, so people get the flu shot, get a common cold, and say, 'Oh, it must have been the flu shot.'"

While you can have a mild reaction to the flu shot, that's not the flu either.

"So you get the flu shot and your body mounts an immune response and starts to develop antibodies and when that's happening you can definitely start to get low-grade fevers and feel tired for one or two days, but that's not the flu," explained Klausner.

Another reason doctors hear for avoiding the flu shot is concerns over small amounts of Mercury used as a preservative in the vaccines.

"But that's been looked at, and it's been looked at by multiple people smarter than me -- CDC, the FDA, the NIH, the American Academy of Pediatrics -- and they have all concluded that the trace amounts in the flu shot are safe," said Klausner.

Doctors say many of these myths and others are being read and spread on social media sites such as Facebook.

"In the age of social media and the internet it's easy to get some of these misconceptions out there that can really do a lot of harm by flying in the face of strong, evidence-based medicine. I'd say, if the flu shot wasn't effective and the evidence proved that, we wouldn't be pushing it. The only reason we're pushing it is because we've seen study after study, and study after study, demonstrating the efficacy of the flu shot," said Klausner.

Klaussner says if you do see an article pop up, say on your Facebook feed and you have questions about it, instead of just taking that as fact, print it out, bring it in, and talk to him about it.

As for whether Klausner gets the flu shot for himself and his children?

"Yes, absolutely, 100 percent," he said.

Doctors say if they are willing to take their own advice, they hope you will too.

Contact Troubleshooter Diane Wilson
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