Influenza spikes across the nation, especially in states such as Arizona, California and Minnesota. In recent months, there has been a sudden uptick in flu cases. Deaths are predominantly showing up in other otherwise young and middle-aged adults, in good physical health, but not immunized against influenza.
The H1N1 strain of type A of influenza causes the greatest complications, as it has a disproportionate impact on younger patients, with some who are winding up in intensive care units. While each strain of the flu virus has its share of difference, one of the H1N1 strain’s more distinguishing characteristic is the ages it affects, typically young adults within 25 to 50-years-old. When this strain of flu first emerged in 2009, it caused a pandemic. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention weekly flu report, the H1N1 flu is causing “99 percent of the cases.”
With 41 states noticing a rise of influenza cases, Missouri Department of Health has recorded 877 deaths statewide related to influenza thus far. As of January 18th, only ten states have not reported widespread activity or 50 percent of the geographic region of a particular state – Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Hawaii, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Vermont.
Typically, the flu season begins in winter months, peaking in January or February, but because of the seriousness of influenza, physicians still strongly urge the public to be vaccinated. Physicians recommend Relenza and Tamiflu for patients already sick with influenza. These prescription drugs help lower the severity of sickness and reduce the duration, especially when administered within a 48-hour period of developing symptoms such as body aches, chills, fever and coughing.
Clinics are making use of the rapid flu tests for the disease. However, physicians are receiving “false negatives” – an indication that the patient does not have the flu when they actually do, revealed Dr. Angela Campbell, Center for Disease Control medical officer. Instead of relying on the rapid flu test, health professionals should be treating patients based on their symptoms instead to prevent the spread of the illness.
The H1N1 strain is different from flu, and the CDC has said that medical professionals should be equipped to treat individuals even if the rapid flu test turns up negative, especially in patients with respiratory distress or other severe symptoms.
Determining the exact number of deaths from the flu is difficult, as death can often come as the result of the virus morhing into pneumonia or other illness, or aggravating a chronic illness already present. However, the range can measure anywhere from a low of 3,000 to a high of 49,000. In the United States, according to CDC, the flu places in excess of 200,000 into the hospital and that approximately 50 million individuals contract influenza annually.
Recently, McMaster University researchers in Canada have observed that the use of cold and flu medications to reduce fever help patients feel a little better but that individuals may be helping the spread of the flu by going out sooner than they normally would. Still infectious, they are further spreading the contagious disease. Therefore, even if an individual feels better after taking a dosage or two, it is best for them to stay home for a few extra days. If an adult or child has a mild case of influenza, it does not necessarily indicate that the subsequent person to become affected will contract a mild case too.
As influenza continues to spike across the nation, the best course of action is to follow the CDC rule of “Take 3” actions which includes getting a flu vaccine, take daily preventative actions to stop spreading germs, and take the prescribed flu antiviral medications as directed by a medical professional.
by Dawn Levesque