■ BY DR LAUREN HANA
The Clinic saw its first test positive case of Influenza A this week,so this is a good time to review some “flu facts.”
The influenza virus, “the flu,” causes a respiratory illness that can be severe in those younger than 2, over 65, pregnant women and those with other underlying chronic illnesses.
It generally does not include gastrointestinal symptoms and what people often call “the flu” or “the stomach flu” is really a different group of viruses that affect the stomach and small intestine and not the influenza virus (for which we get a vaccine- a “flu shot”).
Confusing, I know!
How can you tell the “flu” from a “cold”?
It’s difficult since they are both caused by viruses, but in general, symptoms of a cold are less severe and include runny or stuffy nose and sore throat. Flu symptoms tend to be more severe and in addition to the symptoms previously mentioned, tend to include headache, fever, cough, joint and muscle aches and fatigue.
Who should get a flu shot?
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommends a flu shot for everyone 6 months old and older unless they are allergic.
It is recommended that those over 65 get a little stronger version.
This year’s vaccine is expected to have good activity against the H1N1 Influenza A strain and against Influenza B and only fair activity against the H3N2 Influenza A strain. They are never perfect and never a guarantee, but recommended nonetheless.
Besides getting a flu shot, what else can I do to protect myself?
Wash your hands!
Stay away from sick people!
Stay away from people if YOU are sick! (Stay home from school or work if you have a fever)
Cover your cough (if you have one) and then- Wash your hands!
See your doctor promptly if you develop flu symptoms.
What can I do if I get the flu?
Treatment is recommended for those at risk to develop complications or at risk to develop severe illness (see the groups mentioned above) if the diagnosis can be made within the first 48-72 hours of the start of symptoms. This treatment is called Tamiflu and you take it for 5 days. It can also be used in a prevention dose for those at risk who have a KNOWN exposure to a close contact that has tested positive for influenza.
Your doctor can do a quick test in the office to check for influenza that requires a Qtip nose swab.
Others not at risk for severe illness or complications or those diagnosed AFTER 3 days of illness, are not likely to benefit from Tamiflu treatment. The treatment for this group is only treatment of the symptoms with over the counter medications for pain and fever, decongestants and cough remedies.
Treatment of all cases should include a lot of rest and plenty of oral fluids.
The highest Influenza activity this week was in the states of Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. So as all of our seasonal visitors descend on Boca Grande; protect yourself and get a flu shot!
For more information please check out the CDC and Florida Department of Health websites at: cdc.gov/flu/index.htm and floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/influenza/index.html
Please note: the Boca Grande Health Clinic has influenza vaccine available for adults and high dose vaccine for those over 65, but does not carry influenza vaccine for children. Please contact your local pediatrician for availability of influenza vaccine for those under 18 years old.