Thoughts on Influenza
I decided to write about "the flu" not only to clear up some myths but to stress some important reminders.
The Flu is different from the "stomach flu" or a cold. It starts with a sudden high fever, body aches, chills, cough, sore throat, congestion and sometimes some vomiting and diarrhea. Colds come on more slowly and do not have high fever spikes or significant body aches. The stomach flu is an intestinal virus that does not cause respiratory symptoms at the same time such as congestion and coughing.
We have had several cases of Influenza A in our office this past week. These were in kids who had not received their flu vaccine. Their parents had either forgotten about it or believed non-doctors who had told them that it was not a good idea to get it. The kids had fevers of 104 and were lethargic and achy. This illness puts them at risk for pneumonia, bronchitis, dehydration, ear infections and sinus infections. Kids with chronic medical conditions including asthma are at a higher risk of complications. The symptoms can last a week. I really don't think anyone wants to see their child like that. Get your kids flu shots. They work; they are 75-80% effective.
The CDC website has a lot more information this year than in the past. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm People who believe that it is a government conspiracy or just a money maker for vaccine companies need to learn some history. In 1918 the Spanish Flu struck. It caused a pandemic, worldwide infection, killing 50 million people. During the 1957-1958 flu, 70,000 people died. There were 33,000 deaths during the 1968 flu pandemic. During the Swine Flu pandemic in 2009, the death toll was less at approximately 15,000. Though the mortality rate is less today than it has been for previous pandemics, the fact that some of these deaths could have been prevented by a vaccine underscores the importance of getting a flu vaccine. Again, the flu vaccine is not 100% effective but is certainly worth getting. Not everyone can get a flu vaccine. It cannot be given to the following groups of individuals:
How does one prevent getting the flu? Wash your hand regularly, avoid touching your face as germs enter through your eyes, nose and mouth, get plenty of rest, stay hydrated. http://http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/index.htm
Lastly, don't wait until the news announces that there is an epidemic and people are suffering. Doctors' offices run out of the vaccine, and if you do get one, it can take up to two weeks to work. It is like doing your holiday shopping early so that you avoid the rush and the products are not yet sold out. The number of phone calls our office is getting and the number of people wanting to get their kids the vaccine now is high. Get your flu shots in the fall when doctors and pharmacies get them. Remember, back to school time is flu shot time.