As educators, we are always on the lookout for teachable moments. This week has provided several of them, and the Goshen College Nursing Department faculty and staff would like to take advantage of these opportunities to set the record straight about what is and is not “the flu”. The “Flu virus, dubbed ‘The Plague’ sweeps campus” headline from the Goshen College newspaper of November 18 is both problematic and incorrect.
Briefly, flu, short for influenza, is a very contagious respiratory illness that often causes coughing, fever, generalized aching, weakness, and headache. It can lead to pneumonia and other severe and possibly life-threatening complications. This is why there is an annual flu (influenza) vaccine available to prevent or decrease flu occurrences.
In contrast, the intestinal variety of symptoms that is often called “the flu” is properly labeled gastroenteritis, caused by an intestinal virus that features the abdominal symptoms of cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea that causes 24-48 hours of misery.
There is an excellent link on WebMD at http//:www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/flu-guide/stomach-flu-not-influenza that clarifies this important distinction.