Flu Season is Here

Somewhere between 20 and 40 million people died in the influenza (flu) pandemic of 1918-1919. This is greater than the number of people killed in World War I. It has been cited in medical literature as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history.

In the fall of 1918 something erupted that seemed as benign as the common cold. However it was far more than a common cold. In the next two years a fifth of the world’s population was infected with this flu virus. 28% of all Americans became ill and an estimated 675,000 Americans died from the flu during this period. This was ten times the number of Americans that died in World War I. What many people do not realize is that half of all the deaths U.S. soldiers in World War I were the result of the flu. The other half died from the enemy. An estimated 43,000 American soldiers in World War I died from the influenza virus.

Today the Flu activity continues to plague the United States. This year an early flu season with high levels of activity is concentrated in the south central and southeastern regions of the country. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) urges you to get a flu vaccine now if you have not done so already this season. The CDC has created a trivalent vaccine that covers you for the three most prevalent influenza A and B viruses. You could have the flu if you are running a fever, having body aches,  headache, cough, congestion and / or nausea. You could get the flu even if you had a flu shot. There are many mutations of the flu viruses every season. You may be one of the unlucky ones that acquired a viral mutation that was NOT one of the three in the CDC trivalent vaccine. We are seeing a lot of unlucky flu patients at Bellaire ER this season.

There is no cure for the flu. However, Tamiflu has been shown to decrease the number of days of illness if started in the first 48 hours. Along with Tamiflu, you should treat the fever by not covering up and taking Tylenol or ibuprofen. You lose a lot of fluid by evaporation when you run a fever. In addition, people often have nausea and fail to drink enough fluids. Therefore, you must keep well hydrated when you get the flu. The final treatment is pain management. The best treatment is rest, so minimize your activity. Finally remember you are highly contagious when you have the flu and are running a fever and congested. The virus is transferred most commonly with a cough or sneeze in aerosolized droplets. Protect your family by trying to keep your distance – don’t cough, sneeze or even breath near them. Wash your hands and all handles in your house.