According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), this year’s strain of Influenza (flu) has already hit epidemic proportions across the United States, with at least 15 associated deaths of children so far this season (most in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and California.) The most common strain thus far, is known as Influenza A (H3N2). Sounds pretty scary. But I guess any illness with an official name and number is creepy.
A contagious respiratory illness, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death. Most at risk are the elderly, young children and other people with weaker-than-average immune systems. Most health professionals contend the best defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Apparently, dogs can catch the flu, too. But we are susceptible to different strains than our human counterparts.
Carefully monitoring flu activity across the country, the CDC reports: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.
The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 years and older. Also, the surveillance system that tracks mortality shows that the country is in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic. During influenza seasons, ILI increases first, and then hospitalizations increase, and then increases in deaths occur, so what is being observed is a typical pattern for the flu season.”
Although this year’s flu season started a few weeks earlier than usual, pharmacists across the country don’t expect the virus to peak until early to mid-February, which means there is still time to get vaccinated, as the shot generally takes two weeks to reach full effectiveness. I don’t understand why some people are afraid of needles. Even my young son, JR, gets boosters without a whimper. As you weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, it might help you to consider the differences between symptoms of a common cold and the flu:
- Often begins with a sore throat, which usually lasts for just one or two days
- Nasal symptoms, runny nose, sneezing and congestion follow
- A cough manifests by day four or five, typically due to sinus drainage and associated nasal congestion
- Fever is uncommon in adults but slightly more common in children
- Symptoms generally last for up to one week
- Persistent sore throat
- Fever (100-102 degrees, which is typically higher than for a cold)
- Severe headache
- Severe muscle aches
- Fatigue, weakness
- Extreme exhaustion
- Chest discomfort
- The Swine flu is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.
Although many symptoms overlap, people who catch colds are more likely to suffer far less and rebound much more quickly than those who succumb to the flu. Also of note, while people who vomit often think they have the flu, stomach pain and diarrhea are far more likely to be the result of food-borne illness (food poisoning) than attributable to a case of the flu. I think this is interesting, because people are always saying they have the flu when they are probably suffering from bad Chinese food.
Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu
- Wash your hands – Even if you are exposed to the flu (by touching a germ-infested counter top at a doctor’s office, for example) if you clean your hands before you touch your face, there’s little chance the germs can reach your eyes, nose, or mouth, all of which are the usual ways they enter your system and start wreaking havoc.
- Try not to touch your face – LiveScience.com reports that the average person touches his or her face some 3.6 times per hour. Since cold and flu germs pass from infected surfaces to orifices such as the nose and mouth, the best way to guard yourself is to keep your hands in your lap. Also, try to avoid habits like biting your nails.
- Keep surfaces clean – From your home to your cubby a work, the importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated. Take time to disinfect your keyboard, telephone and desk. In fact, set up a reminder to thoroughly wipe down surfaces each time you eat. You might also want to use disinfectant spray or wipes. She always said it’s good to keep things clean. I guess Mother knows best.
- Moisturize Your Air – Women’s Health Magazine reports that very humid air might be toxic to flu viruses. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why, one possibility is that droplets that contain the virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer. In moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.
- Stay home – Although we aren’t recommending you become a hermit, you will lessen your chances of getting sick if you stay away from large crowds. Also, if you are sick, stay home from work so you won’t infect your co-workers. If you’re sick, you probably won’t be at your best, anyway. So take care of yourself and go back to work when you are back in top form. Makes sense to me.
We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy in 2015 and beyond. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.