Worried About the Flu?!

Are you hearing a lot of talk about the flu lately?  Is it making you paranoid?

Well, it is making me a little nervous and you know that whenever I feel anxious about something I start searching for information.  Of course I’ll share that info here with my readers!

First, influenza is a disease that is highly communicable, that means it’s catching.  If someone who has it coughs on you, or you happen to touch something they left their germs on then the bad news is you just might have picked up their virus.

A flu is worse than the general cold.  Colds are from viruses too, you can have a virus attack your throat, your nostrils, your eyes- and some of these viruses comprise the lungs and can turn simple cough and cold symptoms into pneumonia like symptoms.

Some people have said to me that the flu won’t give you diarrhea or vomiting. That isn’t quite true, children may sometimes experience stomach symptoms with the influenza virus.

Right now, a couple of places are worried about a flu pandemic.  That means a virulent strain that infects a large number of folks.  NYC is worried about this year’s flu being epidemic, but most patients that present in hospitals are given what is called a rapid flu test.  The rapid test is often wrong!  A culture takes a lot longer and sometimes needs more invasive procedures.  Most people aren’t having their nasal discharges suctioned out of their heads with a bulb, even though that is the best means of diagnosing the influenza virus.

Some people have wondered about the flu’s annual occurrence.  How can a virus show up every autumn?  Well, there are a couple of possible clues to what makes it a seasonal illness.  The first is that a lot of the material from the virus comes from migratory birds!  Since migrations are annual rites, the flu in it’s new and improved shape comes to visit certain places on the planet at regular times.

Another answer may come from the virus being killed by sunlight.  Surfaces that are in direct sunlight are going to be safer than indoor environments.  When Fall arrives, people move indoors and often work in close quarters.

The flu is a quick changing problem.  What might be a mild flu season one year, can come back with a slight genetic mutation in the next season and knock out a lot of people.  More people are harmed by this virus than let’s say automobile accidents annually, but we all have gotten used to it.  And  most of us get through it with a couple of extra blankets and some chicken soup.

But flu can cause internal bleeding, bleeding of the skin, eye and ear infections and serious bronchial illness.  So the US has decided that it’s a bad virus.  It keeps people going to hospitals and it keeps them from going to work and school.  The US has decided to make an effort to get everyone to get vaccinated.

Everyone doesn’t need to be vaccinated, but the authorities figure it’s easier to impress people with a sort of global need to be vaccinated, than it is to explain which groups fall into the “at risk” categories every year.  Sometimes flu will only harm infants, the elderly, and/or people with other health complications.  Unfortunately, some year’s bug will attack people who aren’t on the traditional “at risk” list.

In Europe there is a myth floating around that if you’ve had influenza once in your life you are probably safe from ever having it again.  When I read that I was shocked.  Here we are getting so used to the idea of “annual flu vaccines”.  I have come to accept that every year people are susceptible to catching the virus.  Apparently I was wrong, but it’s also true that the folks that thought that you can only get the virus once in a lifetime were wrong too.

I know I didn’t quite solve the problem of influenza.  I hope I explained a few things, like why we have come to think of the flu as an annual event even though the rest of the world doesn’t feel that way.

I have suggested that there are other viruses that might be causing flu-like symptoms around this time of year.  The tests for influenza are much more complicated than most of us have experienced and so, what officials are thinking is the flu, might not be but to be on the safe side, they’d rather fight the flu.

A vaccination will not protect you for sure.  It isn’t a live dose of the virus, and you’ll need to take it weeks to months before you are exposed, and one of the problems is that the types of virus change annually.  But the United States wants all Americans to protect themselves from influenza.

Stay safe, wash your hands, take some extra vitamin C and take good care of yourself if you start with chills and a scratchy throat and sneezing.




1 thought on “Worried About the Flu?!”

  1. Yes. The ability of flu vaccine to protect a person depends on two things: 1) the age and health status of the person getting vaccinated, and 2) the similarity or “match” between the virus strains in the vaccine and those circulating in the community. If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher. If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced. However, it’s important to remember that even when the viruses are not closely matched, the vaccine can still protect many people and prevent flu-related complications. Such protection is possible because antibodies made in response to the vaccine can provide some protection (called cross-protection) against different, but related strains of influenza viruses. For more information about vaccine effectiveness, visit How Well Does the Seasonal Flu Vaccine Work ?

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