Battling the dreaded flu season
It’s that time of year again–everywhere you go, you seem to be bombarded with people coughing, sneezing, and blowing their noses. Symptoms that indicate that it is the dreaded flu season. Unlike years past when most people only had to worry about the common cold or flu that had them under the weather for a day or two, a week at the most, people now have to be concerned with newer and deadlier strains of the flu virus.
According to Dr. Patrick Whitfield, family physician at Oxford Medical Center, although much attention has been given to viruses like the swine(HINI)and bird(H5N1)flus in the past two years, with the onset of another flu season, he says you don’t need to be paranoid about potentially catching a”killer”flu strain.
The physician says what makes new and media-hyped viruses like the bird flu scary is that they are highly resistant to older anti-viral medication, non-responsive to the usual flu shot vaccinations and is sensitive to only a few drugs if administered in time.
“What has many people afraid is that the new[H1N1]virus is sensitive to Tamiflu and Relenza but resistant to the older antiviral drugs,”says Dr. Whitfield.
He says initiation of therapy within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms is imperative if the treatment with drug therapy is to be effective. The usual flu shot given at the beginning of the flu season is not effective against this agent.”
If you do by chance catch a”killer”strain of the flu, the doctor says medical practitioners now know a bit more about the virus and how to combat it. Treatment he says is generally targeted at relieving symptoms such as body aches, fever, cough and nasal congestion. He says it is not suggested that you take antibiotics as they do work against those viruses, and that antivirals, available by prescription from a physician if taken early enough during the course of the disease(first 48 hours)can shorten the duration of the flu and relieve symptoms.
Prevention from this strain of influenza should be treated like any other common airborne illness,”says the doctor.”Many people may be stressed right now because the colder months are here and people get sick more often at this time but you shouldn’t worry too much. Like every year immunization utilizing vaccines that have been developed for the strain of virus causing an existing outbreak are made and distributed. This has and still is effective in decreasing and stopping an influenza epidemic. Each year vaccines are developed and utilized based on the appropriate strain of the Influenza virus.This may not work for the swine and bird flu strains but it does for other common strains which can be just as deadly if they are aggressive and not treated properly.”
If you are one of those persons stressing about catching a strain of flu that you really don’t want this year, the doctor says to simply take precautions and that frequent hand washing, and isolation from public areas of ill persons are effective in minimizing the spread. He says taking your vitamins and ensuring you eat healthily can also help in prevention.
According to the family physician, whether it is a serious illness or not if you feel sick, do not hesitate to call your doctor and be in as little contact with others as possible. He says not to let your flu go untreated especially if it appears to last for a longer period and is more severe than usual. If your flu is prolonged and unchecked he says there are several complications that can occur, like contracting a viral pneumonia. According to Dr. Whitfield viral pneumonia is probably the leading cause of death in infected patients and is characterized by progressive cough and difficulty breathing. The pneumonia can progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome which is life-threatening and requires ventilation in an Intensive Care Unit.
He also advises that all persons be extra careful during the flu season and not just the elderly, children and persons with heart problems.”There have been reported cases where young adults have died of pneumonias believed to be associated with the virus in other countries, and another complication that you may face if you do not seek medical attention in time is a secondary bacterial pneumonia which can be very difficult to treat and can progress to death in a very short period of time
With the flu season here, Dr. Whitfield advises that everyone should get a flu shot, but especially the elderly, children and those persons with heart conditions.