Monday, November 16, 2009

The Big Bad Flu or Influenza



I have the flu or grip as I was brought up to call it.  Fever, chills, dry deep cough, aches, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue and just plain feel awful.

Where did I pick it up?  I do not know. My mother has a cold and her symptoms are different because she has a runny nose and a wet cough.  The kids next door are always coming down with something and bringing germs home from school.  I have not been out in the public much but it only takes one exposure.

What is influenza?  Wikipedia defines influenza as Influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is an infectious disease caused by RNA viruses of the family Orthomyxoviridae (the influenza viruses), that affects birds and mammals. The name influenza is Italian and means "influence" (Latin: influentia). The most common symptoms of the disease are chills, fever, sore throat, muscle pains, severe headache, coughing, weakness and general discomfort.[1] Sore throat, fever and coughs are the most frequent symptoms. In more serious cases, influenza causes pneumonia, which can be fatal, particularly for the young and the elderly. Although it is often confused with other influenza-like illnesses, especially the common cold, influenza is a much more severe disease than the common cold and is caused by a different type of virus.[2] Influenza may produce nausea and vomiting, particularly in children,[1] but these symptoms are more common in the unrelated gastroenteritis, which is sometimes called "stomach flu" or "24-hour flu". 
Even that definition needs more explaination. Influenza, or the flu, is a viral infection affecting the respiratory tract including the nose, throat and lungs.

How does the flu spread?

The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. (This is called "droplet spread.") This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled (generally up to 3 feet) through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby. The viruses also can spread when a person touches respiratory droplets on another person or an object and then touches their own mouth or nose (or someone else’s mouth or nose) before washing their hands. Please watch these two videos from YouTube.

Why Don't We Do It In Our Sleeve?
The Influenza Virus

What are the symptoms of the flu?

The symptoms are dry cough, headache, body aches, high fever, chills, extreme tiredness, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults.

What is seasonal flu?

According to the Center for Controled Disease and Prevention, Every year in the United States, on average:

•5% to 20% of the population gets the flu;
•more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu-related complications; and
•about 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.
Some people, such as older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), are at increased risk for serious complications from seasonal flu illness.

This flu season, scientists believe that a new and very different flu virus (called novel 2009 H1N1) may cause a lot more people to get sick than during a regular flu season. It also may cause more hospital stays and deaths than regular seasonal flu. More information about the new H1N1 flu is available here.

What is the difference between the flu and a cold?

The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses but they are caused by different viruses. Because these two types of illnesses have similar flu-like symptoms, it can be difficult to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. In general, the flu is worse than the common cold, and symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry cough are more common and intense. Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose, hacking productive cough and sneezing. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, or hospitalizations.

When is the flu season in the United States?

In the United States, the peak of flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March. The overall health impact (e.g., infections, hospitalizations, and deaths) of a flu season varies from year to year. CDC monitors circulating flu viruses and their related disease activity and provides influenza reports each week from October through May.

What is the treatment for the flu?

Treatment can include antiviral medication, over the counter medication, homeopathic treatments.  It is advised to seek medical attention to make your choice.

Antiviral medications Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) that fight against the flu in your body. While CDC recommends flu vaccine as the first and most important step in preventing flu, antiviral drugs are a second line of defense against the flu. Antiviral drugs are not sold over-the-counter and are different from antibiotics. You can only get them if you have a prescription from your doctor or health care provider. There are two antiviral drugs recommended by CDC this season. The brand names for these are Tamiflu® and Relenza® (The generic names for these drugs are oseltamivir and zanamivir). Tamiflu® is available as a pill or liquid and Relenza® is a powder that is inhaled.

Over the counter medications are medicine that can be purchased without a prescription.  Most common is Ibuprofen and Acetaminophen which can help with aches and pains.  Here is a list of other over the counter medicines that can be used to treat the flu.

Analgesics — These medications relieve aches and pains, and reduce fever.
Antihistamines - These medications block histamines, which help dry a runny nose and watery eyes. They often cause drowsiness.
Expectorants - These medications work by thinning mucus so that it can more easily be coughed up.
Cough Suppressants —-These medications work by quieting a cough. They are usually recommended for dry coughs where you are not producing mucus.
Decongestants - These medications work by reducing nasal congestion
Beware all medicine has side effects.  Always read labels carefully and check with your physician.

Homeopathic Oscillococcinum is most commonly used to relive flu symptoms.  It is suggested you review the following sites to learn more about homeopathic alternatives Holistic Online , Natural News , Homeopathy and the Flu

How soon will I get sick if I am exposed to the flu?

The time from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin is about one to four days, with an average of about two days.

How long is a person with flu virus contagious?

The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Studies show that most healthy adults may be able to infect others from 1 day prior to becoming sick and for 5-7 days after they first develop symptoms. Some young children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer than a week.
 
What about the flu vaccine?

There are two flu vaccine available this year: the seasonal flu vaccine and the H1N1 Swine flu vaccine.  According to the CDC: This flu season, scientists expect both 2009 H1N1 flu and seasonal flu to cause more people to get sick than a regular flu season. More hospital stays and deaths may also occur. Vaccines are the most important tool we have for preventing influenza. The first doses of vaccines which protect against 2009 H1N1 influenza (flu) are starting to become available and more doses will be shipped in the next few weeks.

The seasonal flu vaccine is available in two forms the shot and a nasal spray. Because viruses mutate and evolve rapidly, each year there are new and different strains of viruses swirling around us.  The cocktail in a vaccine last year will not be the cocktail recipe this year. Currently the vaccine contains three influenza viruses-one A (H3N2) virus, one regular seasonal A (H1N1) virus (not the 2009 H1N1 virus), and one B virus. The basic idea is that given a small amount of a virus will enable a healthy body to develop antibodies which will protect against additional contact with the viruses. 

Vaccines have been used for many years.  Even John Adams had his family vaccinated against small pox back in the 1700's when a devestating outbreak occured in the Boston area.  In those days the process involved scraping the skin and rubbing small pox pus into the abraision.  Some came down with a mild case of the pox and some developed a more serious case.  Over all the success rate outnumbered the fatality rate.
The process has evolved now and basically the virus is grown in chicken embryos and introducted through with injections and nasal sprays.

The H1N1 vaccination is highly recommended by the CDC. CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that certain groups of the population receive the 2009 H1N1 vaccine first. These target groups include pregnant women, people who live with or care for children younger than 6 months of age, healthcare and emergency medical services personnel, persons between the ages of 6 months and 24 years old, and people ages of 25 through 64 years of age who are at higher risk for 2009 H1N1 because of chronic health disorders or compromised immune systems.

There is much debate about whether to be vaccinated or not.  The choice ultimately is yours.  My suggestion is to take wise counsel, read all you can about the vaccines, determine if you fit into one of the target groups, choose a physican who has a similar point of view then decide.
 
Most of the information provided in this article was taken from the Center for Control Disease Protection website.  There are updates daily with new information  as well as differing opinions.  I have choosen not to delve into the realm of alternative opinions on the flu, treatment or vaccines nor have I shared my personal belief.  This article was meant to be a stepping off point for you to do your own research.  I will not be responding to any comments, although, I will read them all. 
 
May you all be healthy.  Prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

Have you prepared to keep your family home for an extended period of time if social distancing is required or strongly advised? Stay tuned and I will be helping you with frugal tips from my personal experiences.

28 comments:

WomanWhoRunsWithHorses said...

I'm sorry you're under the weather, hope you recover quickly. I enjoy your blog! My husband and I just got over a stomach flu that lasted two days. No fun, but that's life. We fit into the target categories but won't be getting the H1N1 vaccine. We don't get regular flu shots every year either. We are sick occasionally, but treat the symptoms when we are and let nature take it's course. I think there are some wonderful advances in medicine but vaccinating for every single bug out there is not (in my opinion) the right choice. Hope you feel better soon!

The Frugal Fraulein said...

You probably know this, but, what we call the stomach flu is really not a flu but a gastrointestinal "experience". We have come to use the word flu to cover many illnesses that are not all virus related. Flu comes from influenza which is caused by a virus attacking the respritory system.Usually, gastrointestional sickness (that nasty bought of upset stomach, diarreha and stomach cramping) is related to bacterial origins often from the food we eat. Now that the flu is the topic of so many reports, news stories, tv and radio shows, we all need to learn more about the difference between viruses and bacteria.
I am so glad you wrote and thank you for your well wishes. I do feel better today. lol and I said I would not respond to any comments.

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