Wednesday, December 17, 2014

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like . . . Flu Season


Influenza Home Care Guide – Credit CDC


# 9454

While we spend a good deal of time talking about exotics in this blog, good old-fashion seasonal influenza comes knocking every winter, and this year it shows signs it may try kicking in the door. During a `bad’ year, the potential exists for seeing  tens of thousands of flu deaths, and hundreds of thousands of flu hospitalizations across North America.


If you haven’t already heard, there’s a new flu in town – a `drifted’ H3N2 that isn’t well matched to this year’s vaccine (see CDC HAN Advisory On `Drifted’ H3N2 Seasonal Flu Virus) and the CDC has warned that Early Data Suggests Potentially Severe Flu Season.


This week we are starting to see a lot of reports of schools reporting high absenteeism – or even closing their doors – due to flu.  A few examples over the past 24 hours include:


Two Toledo schools closed due to illness. : News : NBC24    -  Ohio

Flu activity becomes widespread, closing schools     -  Kentucky

Christmas vacation to start early in Polk County because of sickness - Georgia


While last year we endured the H1N1 virus – which takes a heavier toll on young and middle-aged adults – this year we are seeing almost exclusively the H3N2 virus, which tends to hit harder, and usually targets children and the elderly. While it is early in the flu season, a number of flu-related deaths have already been reported.


Even though this year’s flu vaccine is likely to be less protective than usual against the H3N2 subtype, it may still be worth getting, as it also protects against H1N1 and (either one or two strains of ) influenza B.   Doubly important right now is practicing good flu hygiene (washing hands, covering coughs, & staying home if sick)/

But if you, or a loved one should fall ill, knowing how to care for a bad case of flu – and when to seek medical care – becomes your second line of defense.


You can download the CDC’s  Influenza Home Care Guide, for advice on setting up a sick room, caring for someone who is ill, and when to call the doctor.


Know the emergency warning signs
There are “emergency warning signs” that should signal anyone to seek medical care urgently.
Seek care if the sick person has ANY of the signs below.

In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to
be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
• Fever with a rash
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these
• Being unable to eat
• Has trouble breathing
• Has no tears when crying
• Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Confusion
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu–like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough


This year, because of the potential for seeing a particularly severe flu season, the CDC is advising:


Influenza antiviral drugs – Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) can reduce severe complications such as hospitalization and potentially death for people who are at high risk of serious flu complications or are very sick. Treatment of high risk patients should begin as soon after symptoms develop as possible, without waiting for lab tests to confirm flu infection.

Those at high risk from influenza include children younger than 5 years (especially those younger than 2 years); adults 65 years and older; pregnant women; and people with certain chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, and kidney disease.

CDC recommends that people at high risk check with their doctor or other health care professional promptly if they get flu symptoms. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started in the first 48 hours after symptoms appear. Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.


All of which makes those little  bottles of hand sanitizer,and boxes of surgical masks, excellent stocking stuffers for the Holidays.

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