How Do You Tell a Cold From the Flu?Aired January 20, 2000 - 1:38 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: This week, we've been focusing on the flu: how to differentiate it from a cold and how it is treated. The flu virus really has a grip on the U.S. right now. What can we do to avoid it?
CNN's Dr. Steve Salvatore joins us from New York with some advice on flu prevention.
Dr. Salvatore, this will not apply to me. I don't believe in it, not getting it, not thinking about it. But for those who might be susceptible, how can they protect themselves?
DR. STEVE SALVATORE, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Andria, by far, the best protection against the flu is the flue shot, and it's still not too late to get it. Even though the optimal time to get the shot is in the fall, around mid-October to November, we're still deep enough in this epidemic.
Now, remember, the shot takes about two weeks to be effective, so don't expect an immediate protection. But, once again, it's not too late.
Other options include two anti-viral drugs called amanthadine and rimanthadine, both of which have be approved for prevention of the flu. But they only work against influenza A, so they're not really widely used. These drugs are different from Relenza and Tamiflu, two drugs newly released on the market. And the third option, of course, is the old standby of washing with warm soap and water -- your hands, that is. Even though the most times the flu is spread through the air when people cough or sneeze, hand washing can limit it's spread and the spread of other viruses, as well -- Andria.
HALL: Now, for those people who are exposed to the virus, how long before it hits them, and how long is it that they're contagious with it?
SALVATORE: Well, everybody wants to know this questions because they are running away from their co-workers in droves and they're straying away from family members who are sick. Usually, it takes anywhere from one to four days to get sick after you've been exposed to the flu. Now, that's for most people; it's not 100 percent of the time, so keep that in mind. But, also, if you already have the flu, you're most contagious in the first three to five days after you first develop symptoms. But, remember, children, who are the most common vector or carriers of the flu into your home, can shed the virus for longer than a week. So the kids are the ones that are spreading it to you.
HALL: Well, as we're now in the 21st century, before, there was only chicken soup. Now there's Tamiflu, as you mentioned, and Relenza. Tell us about those drugs.
SALVATORE: Well, unfortunately, they're not really a cure for the flu, and the biggest problem they have is that they both must be taken within the first day or two of symptoms. And many people can't get to their doctor that fast, so they're not really reaping the benefits of these drugs. But, keep in mind, even if you do get the medication early enough, it will only shorten the symptoms by about a day or so. So I think they're turning out to not be the big wonder drugs that everybody hoped they would be, and many people are still suffering through this with good old-fashioned -- like you said -- chicken soup.
HALL: Chicken soup.
Now, for my friends, who will remain nameless, who are a little hypochondriac, what can you do when you're constantly using those anti-bacterial lotions. Do those actually help, because I see people with those all the time?
SALVATORE: Well, you know, the research is kind of mixed on those, whether they actually help or not. And we're talking about bacteria versus viral. What they found is that, in some cases, they work for some types of bacterial infections, but they don't work so good for others. So it's kind of mixed. The medical literature isn't really solid on that stuff. The way I see it, though, it probably wouldn't hurt. And if you're a hypochondriac, it can be -- the odds are, you're probably doing a lot more than just that to stay away from the flu.
HALL: All right, well, you stay healthy, and I'm going to do the same.
SALVATORE: We're trying, we are trying.
HALL: Dr. Salvatore, we always thank you for your advice.
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