Are you feeling achy, have a fever and chills? Well, join the crowd. It is flu season and it is all over town. According to Bertha Trevino, LVN Clinic Nurse for the South Plains Health Department, “This season doesn’t seem to be any more active than last year, but it is plenty active. There are lots of cases of the flu being diagnosed daily.”
Influenza is a highly contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads easily and rapidly through droplets, when an infected person sneezes or coughs and can cause mild to severe illness. Typical symptoms include sudden high fever, chills, a dry cough, headache, runny nose, sore that, and muscle and joint pain. Extreme fatigue can last from several days to weeks. The flu may lead to hospitalization or even death, even among previously healthy children and adults. Each year, thousands of people in the United States die from flu.
Brownfield Regional Medical Center is seeing their fair share of flu cases, as well. Infection Control and Employee Health Nurse Glenna Estenson stated, “We have had several patients admitted to the hospital with the flu. Maybe 10 or so in the last month.” BRMC has also seen two cases of H1N1, otherwise known as Swine Flu.There are some differences in the Swine Flu and regular flu. Swine flu is more likely to include diarrhea and vomiting, as well as the respiratory symptoms that come with typical seasonal human flu. Recent reports indicate that the A(H1N1) swine flu virus infects deeper into the lungs than typical seasonal human flu.
Both the Health Department and BRMC agree that there seems to be slightly more B Flu than the A variety. Both include lots of body aches and fever.
Flu is a very serious disease in both adults and children, but it can be much more serious in the older population. People ages 65 and older and more vulnerable to the disease and its related complications. No matter how healthy or youthful we appear, as we age our immune system weakens, making the flu vaccination extremely important for older adults.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that everyone from six months all the way up get an annual influenza vaccination. Many people say that the shot makes them sick. Trevino stated, “We hear from so many people that they don’t want to get the shot because they heard from someone that took the shot and got sick anyway or that the shot itself gave them the flu. What is likely happening is that the people were already exposed and didn’t realize it and got sick anyway. The flu traditionally has a 14 day incubation period. But, what the shot does is lessen the severity and the length of the illness.”
There are many flu viruses, and they are always changing. Each year a new flu vaccine is made to protect against three or four viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Even when the vaccine doesn’t exactly match these viruses, it can still provide some protection.
The CDC states that over 17 million flu shots have been given this year. It can take up to 14 days for the shot to become completely effective in a person, so caution around those with the flu still needs to be practiced.
Estenson recommends that people be very diligent about hand washing. “Wash your hands several times a day, especially if you are around other people, even if they are not exhibiting symptoms of the flu, or any other illness.” She recommends you stay away from the Emergency Room if you can, as there are so many who do come to the ER with flu like symptoms. Of course, always cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and just take common sense precautions.
Both Estenson and Trevino urge everyone to get in and get their flu shots now. It is not too late.