|2/9/2018 11:37:00 AM|
Flu hits Iowa County hard
|Influenza has been spreading across the nation at a fast rate, and Iowa County is no exception, having over six times as many hospitalizations at this time this year compared to last year. Last year, there were only three hospitalizations due to influenza, but this year, there have already been 23.|
There are two basic influenza viruses: influenza A and influenza B. Then, there are multiple strains of each type of virus. Right now, the predominant strain is influenza A H3N2 according to Maria Leary, Infection Prevention and Employee Health Coordinator at Upland Hills Health.
Influenza attacks your respiratory system such as the nose, throat, and lungs, and symptoms include: fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, aching muscles (especially in your back, arms, and legs), chills and sweats, headache, dry/persistent cough, fatigue and weakness, nasal congestion, and sore throat. Symptoms usually start like a common cold; however, colds develop slowly while the flu comes on suddenly and is much more intense. "If you feel better for a day then bad again, we recommend you go see your doctor," Leary stated.
"We recommend annual flu vaccines for those over the age of six months," said Leary. "There are three of four strains of the flu in the vaccines, and they are not universal. As H3N2 is predominant this season, that strain will be in your vaccine. Vaccines are made by looking at what was the predominant strain the previous year to get ready ahead of time."
Additionally, Leary explained that is hard to get to a highly effective vaccine for influenza because the virus is constantly changing. The flu vaccine is about 10-30 percent effective; however, getting the vaccine can prevent a different strain from becoming more serious.
"Getting the vaccine is like wearing a seatbelt in a car accident. It may not prevent the virus, but it'll help prevent any fatalities," explained Sue Madge, Director and Health Officer of the Iowa County Health Department. "Everyone should get the flu shot. In Iowa County, only about 32 percent of the population has the flu shot which is about the same percentage as all of Wisconsin. It's pretty low."
Leary also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not recommending the usage of the nasal spray vaccine (LAIV) due to concerns about its effectiveness.
Factors that can increase your risk of developing influenza include: age, living/working conditions, weakened immune system, chronic illnesses, pregnancy, and obesity. Moreover, complications from the flu can arise and impact high-risk children and adults. These complications include pneumonia, bronchitis, asthma flare-ups, heart problems, and ear infections.
"The best way to prevent it [influenza] is to get immunized. Influenza B season is ahead of us, and we are already seeing some of those cases," Leary said.
To stop the spread of the flu:
Wash your hands - exhaustive, regular hand-washing is an effective way to prevent numerous common infections. You can also use hand sanitizers.
Contain your coughs/sneezes - cover your mouth/nose when you sneeze or cough as the flu is spread through the air in droplets when someone with the infection coughs, sneezes, or talks. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inner crook of your elbow.
Avoid crowds - flu spreads rapidly where people amass such as daycares, schools, office buildings, and public transportation. By avoiding these crowds during peak flu season (November-February), you lessen your chance of picking up the virus.
Stay home - don't rush back to work/school. Take your time and don't put others at risk of getting the virus.
People with influenza are contagious from the day or so symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin, but people can be contagious for as long as 10 days after symptoms appear.
Treatment for the flu includes bed rest and plenty of fluids such as water, juice, and warm soups to stave off dehydration; however, your doctor may prescribe antivirals to help shorten the illness. If needed, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers (acetaminophen or ibuprofen) to fight the achiness that comes with influenza.
If you haven't already, get the flu shot. "Make sure to call your provider or pharmacy ahead of time to make sure that they have the shot available," Madge said. "In some places, they have already run out."
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