The most recent CDC flu advisory report shows 41 states have an “Elevated” flu increase this winter. In San Diego, Calif., a second person has died from the flu. The first flu victim in San Diego was an 89-year-old woman according to San Diego’s 10News on Jan. 9, 2013. The latest flu victim is a 92-year-old woman who passed away on Tuesday.
While the CDC’s weekly flu report “2012-2013 Influenza Season Week 52 ending December 29, 2012” still shows “Region 9: AZ, CA, Guam, HI, NV” as “Normal,” an updated flu report expected to be released on Friday might change that. The flu status for all other regions in the United States is “Elevated.”
CDC’s weekly flu report also states that “Since the start of the season, influenza A (H3N2) viruses have predominated nationally, followed by influenza B viruses, while 2009 H1N1 viruses have been identified rarely.”
San Diego county health officials have confirmed that there are 361 flu cases in San Diego this flu season. Last year there were only 108 flu cases at this time of the year. Dr. Joe Zwass, who is in charge of the flu vaccine program at Kaiser Hospital, told 10News that this year’s flu virus is “definitely a more severe virus than we've seen in a few years."
In December, Kaiser Permanente “was vaccinating about 500 to 600 people a day.” Today, that number has doubled to about 1,000 vaccines a day. The increase came especially at the beginning of the new year.
Even though some states report a flu vaccine shortage, San Diego’s health officials report that “there is no threat of a shortage” in San Diego.
According to San Diego’s 10News, “Hospitals across the country are dealing with packed emergency rooms filled with people with flu-like symptoms. In some areas, hospitals have set up triage areas outside of the building to treat the patients with the flu.”
CNN Health reports on Jan. 9, 2013, that in Massachusetts, “Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency in the city because of the flu.” Pennsylvania’s Department of Health reports that there have been 22 flu-related deaths in the state. South Carolina’s Department of Health is also reporting 22 flu-related deaths. Illinois’ Department of Public Health Director reported on Wednesday that “since October, six flu-related deaths of patients in intensive-care units have occurred.” Michigan’s Department of Community Health reports “four pediatric deaths related to the flu.” “And the North Dakota Department of Health is reporting 1,077 cases of flu in the state as of Wednesday -- a sharp increase from the 625 cases reported last week.”
With the nation’s widespread flu outbreak, San Diego county health officials are reminding everyone that the best protection against the flu is to get vaccinated and that it is not too late to be immunized. “The good news is the vaccine is still a good match for the virus."
Whether someone chooses to get vaccinated or not, below are some additional hints in dealing with the widespread flu outbreak.
Get enough sleep
According to CNN’s report, one of the reasons why so many flu cases began in December is that many people were sleep deprived due to extended shopping trips, parties, and holiday outings. Getting enough sleep is the first line of defense in building up one’s immunity against the flu virus.
Recognize the earliest symptoms
Feeling more tired and needing more sleep might actually be one of the first signs that a person experiences after having been exposed to the flu virus. Since a flu-infected person is usually contagious the day before symptoms are visible, the flu can be easily spread during social gatherings, shopping trips, and at work. Changes in sleep pattern, appetite, and activity levels might be an indicator to skip any social event and to stay home in order not to spread the virus and not to burden the immune system any further.
Know what to expect
If the flu cannot be averted by supporting the immune system, expect to be sick and contagious for about 7 days. Depending on one’s immune system and the severity of the flu virus, some people might be sick for a shorter period of time or a longer period of time. If not physically, though mentally, knowing what to expect can relieve the stress factor of having to deal with sickness.
What to do
According to CNN’s health report, “Patients with normal flu symptoms should get a lot of rest and take painkillers to help with muscle aches. … In five to seven days, you're going to be feeling yourself again.” For some people, following the BRAT diet (bananas, rice, applesauce and toast) alleviates some of the symptoms associated with the flu. Hot chicken soup, tea, lots of water, rest, herbs, a lot of TLC (Tender Loving Care), and if one feels up to it, humor and laughter, are some great “medicines” that are safe. Each person is different, and despite feeling terrible while having the flu, it is an opportunity to learn what works and what does not work well for one’s body and mind.
CNN’s health report points out that, “An otherwise healthy person will not get much benefit from antiviral medications designed to treat symptoms that the flu causes. … The side effects from both oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) include nausea.”
When to go to the hospital
Most patients that go to the hospital because of flu symptoms are being sent home because the hospital cannot speed up 7 days of being sick, provide rest, and the kind of care that a flu-infected person needs. CNN’s health reports says that “A fever as high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit is common in the flu.”
Today, most health care providers like Kaiser Permanente in San Diego provide a list of symptoms for the flu and a list of symptoms that warrant a hospital visit. Checking a health care provider’s website or even calling a health care provider might save someone from an unnecessary trip to the hospital.
Generally, a hospital visit might be warranted if:
- A flu-infected patient experiences a high fever and does not respond to fever-reducing medication
- A flu-infected patient is short of breath
- A flu-infected patient cannot keep down fluids because of nausea
- A flu-infected patient is vomiting or sweating and cannot replenish the liquids (dehydration)
- A flu-infected patient has an underlying medical condition (people with chronic illnesses such as pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurological conditions)
- A flu-infected person is 65 years old or older, or the flu-infected person is a child under the age of two.
When dealing with the flu, it is important to remember that flu vaccines cause the body to form antibodies against the flu and strengthen the defense of a person’s immune system. Age, medical conditions, sleep, and stress affect how much and whether or not a person’s body can produce those antibodies against the flu. A person who does not get enough sleep, not enough nutritious food, or is not taking care of himself or herself might therefore get the flu despite having gotten the flu shot.
Whether one gets the flu shot or not, avoiding unnecessary public places, washing one’s hands, and keeping one’s immune system strong by taking care of oneself is still one of the most powerful lines of defenses against a potentially lethal virus.
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