Flu season is here. It is still not too late to get the FLU SHOT. For more information about current Influenza cases go to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website.
Each year approximately 35,000 Americans die from complications from Influenza. This is due to complications such as pneumonia and dehydration. It is estimated that 15-40% of our population will develop the FLU.
Shedding of the flu virus can occur one day prior to symptoms and up to 7-10 days after onset of symptoms. You may be exposed to the flu virus and not be aware of your exposure source.
Most people recognize symptoms of the flu such as a sudden onset of high fever (usually over 101), body aches, headache, non-productive cough, sore throat and runny nose. Occasionally, there may be vomiting.
Influenza can be confirmed with a nasal swab, but this is usually not necessary in an out-patient setting. If you present to a health care provider within 48 hours of onset symptoms you may be prescribed an antiviral such as Tamiflu (oral medication) or Relenza (inhaled – not for people with asthma or COPD). These are expensive medications, and are the only approved treatment for the current strain of influenza (H3N1). These medications have been shown to reduce the severity and duration of the flu and are used for those individuals who have been exposed to an individual confirmed to have Influenza.
The best plan of action is to be vaccinated. It takes several weeks for your body to develop antibodies against the current strain of Influenza. The vaccine must be obtained annually since it is formulated for the current strains of Influenza.
What to do if you have the flu:
1)Stay home to avoid exposing others
2)Rest, increase fluid intake, drink warm liquids if having chills
3)Good hand washing
4)Do not work if you have a fever, and if possible, do not work for 7 days to prevent spread to co-workers
5)Contact your health care provider for appointment if symptoms such as increased shortness of breath and worsening of cough persist or worsen.
6)Consider obtaining antiviral if able to obtain within the first 48 hours of onset symptoms
Hopefully we will not have a severe epidemic of Influenza, but the season will be in full force soon. Unfortunately the flu season is coming earlier and lasting longer. We have to be diligent in hand washing and using hand sanitizer frequently while out in public. You never know where the flu bug is lurking.