Flu Season 2013 – It’s Here Early and It’s Mean!

cartoon of man with the fluThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has cited the 2013 flu season as one of the worst in the last 10 years and it is just getting started. There is also a strain of a virulent stomach bug, called norovirus, making thousands sick around  the  world. You  will  have  a hard time telling the difference since the norovirus causes flu-like symptoms as well as vomiting and diarrhea. There is no vaccine for norovirus. The only treatment is rest, fluids and ibuprofen or acetaminophen for muscle aches.

Your doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your flu. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick and taken for five days. The two FDA-approved antiviral drugs recommended by CDC are Tamiflu (generic name oseltamivir) and Relenza (generic name, zanamivir). Relenza is not for people with breathing problems like asthma or COPD. These drugs won’t cure the virus but can cut a few days off your sick time.

At the beginning of January, the flu has been reported in 41 states, with 29 reporting high or “severe” levels. Boston recently declared a public health emergency when the city had about 1,500 emergency room visits in less than a month by people with flu-like symptoms. An Allentown, PA emergency room set up a tent outside its door to handle the influx of people.

The flu vaccine has proven about 62 percent effective in preventing the flu, which is in line with what it has been in previous years. Not getting vaccinated means you have zero percent protection. This year’s vaccine protects against three flu strains, H2N3, H1N1 and influenza B, and is a 90 percent match for the viruses circulating this winter. It is estimated between one-third and one-half of Americans have gotten the vaccine.

A new influenza A (H3N2) virus flu strain has been detected. The new strain is similar to one that circulated about 20 years ago, which means that older people are probably going to be less susceptible to this virus than younger people. Experts are watching this new strain to see if it is spreading and if a new vaccine will be needed to combat it.

Wash your hands frequently and please get your flu vaccination. No matter how many times people will you they don’t get the shot since it can give you the flu, it is just not true. It is impossible. Vaccines in flu shots use killed viruses or inactivated vaccines, it is entirely incapable of reproducing.

cartoon woman in a robe with the fluA new study from France found staying home when sick with the flu may health enough to avoid spreading the peoples to others. The CDC says most on average adults with the flu are contagious for one day after they start having symptoms. Only five percent of flu sufferers are contagious for more than three days. A better way to control flu spreading would be to also isolate or treat people who have had close contact with infected individuals.

Besides the devastating health effects, the flu season could cost employers billions of dollars in our fragile economy. The CDC estimates that the flu, on average, costs employers $10.4 billion in direct costs of hospitalization and outpatient visits. That doesn’t count business costs such as sick pay, work delays and reduced efficiency.