Seasonal Influenza is a viral illness which usually occurs between October and March, but the peak season most often is January and February. Every year, between 20,000 and 36,000 persons die in the US alone from flu or flu complications, and as many as 200,000 are hospitalized. Those at risk for complications from seasonal flu are the elderly (65 and older), those with chronic medical problems (such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, and heart disease), pregnant women and young children. Most common complications seen after a case of the flu are bacterial pneumonia, sinusitis and ear infections.
Seasonal flu is a different flu strain from the Swine Flu (H1N1) which has recently caused a word wide outbreak during the summer, and may recur this fall and winter.
Flu is spread by respiratory droplets, and the virus needs to enter the body by the respiratory tract. You can get it by being in close contact with someone coughing or sneezing, or by contact with a telephone or door knob recently handled by an infected person.
Typical flu symptoms are high fever, chills, body aches and pains, headache, fatigue, dry cough, runny nose and sore throat. (In most cases of true flu, there is no nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, although those symptoms sometimes occur.) Most patients report a fairly sudden onset of symptoms.
There are three types of flu; A, B, and C. Types A and B are most common, and are the types the flu vaccine is designed to prevent. An example of Type A flu is the Swine Flu; type B is generally milder.
Every year in the late winter and early spring, scientists begin to make a new seasonal flu vaccine based upon the type of flu in circulation at the time. The flu strains, and therefore the vaccine, change year to year. The seasonal vaccine is designed to prevent type A and B strains expected the following winter. This year, due to the sudden and “off season” outbreak of Swine Flu, a separate vaccine series is being developed for it.
Getting a flu shot, (or the nasal inhaled vaccine), is the best way to prevent getting the flu. Because the flu shot is a killed flu vaccine, you can not get the flu from the shot. Some people do get some mild aches and pains, and it is possible to catch the flu between the time you got the shot and your body builds up immunity (resistance)……but the shot its self does not cause the flu.
There are anti viral treatments which shorten the course of the illness. It is important to be tested to determine what if and what type of flu is present, therefore which antiviral medicine may work best. The test used at MedAccess, like many medical practices, is a nasal swab which tests for both type A and B flu. The antiviral medicines must be started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms to be most effective, and some can be quite expensive.
The best way to prevent spreading (or getting) the flu: -wash your hands frequently -never pick up used tissues -do not share cups or eating utensils -cover your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing -stay at home when you’re sick
At home treatments include -drinking plenty of fluids to stay well hydrated -getting plenty of rest -take Tylenol or ibuprofen for fever, aches and pains (avoid aspirin)
The flu symptoms can last up to 2 weeks. Many patients seem to get better, and within a few days develop chills and a cough productive of thick yellow mucous. If this occurs, you should see your doctor to assure you don’t have pneumonia.
MedAccess is an Urgent Care center located in south Roxboro that can manage flu and its complications, and is open 7 days per week.