Health

The Flu Season Has Weeks To Go

PREVENTION

Get the influenza vaccination. It is not too late if you have not received the vaccination.  There are years when the vaccine is not as effective at preventing the flu, primarily due to the similarity or “match” between the flu viruses that the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community. This seems especially true in seasons like the current one where the predominant Type A virus is H3N2. Since this type of influenza virus has the capacity to mutate more rapidly than H1N1, this makes it more difficult to create a vaccine that will have the right type of H3N2 that will become effective six months after the vaccine was created.

Assume that you and everyone around you has the influenza virus until the CDC announces that flu season is over. Adults are thought to be contagious one day before showing symptoms and five to seven  days after becoming sick. Children may be contagious for longer than seven days. Symptoms usually appear within one to four  days of the virus entering the body. Some people may have the flu virus and remain asymptomatic but still pass the virus to others. The flu is passed from person to person through the air. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, airborne droplets can land in the mouth or nose — or even be inhaled into the lungs — of others nearby. A person might also become infected by touching a surface that has the virus on it, such as a door knob, and then touching the eyes, mouth or nose.

If you are sick with the flu, stay home and minimize contact with others until you are fever free for at least 24 hours. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and dispose of tissues properly. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Use paper towels or Kleenex to touch faucets and door knobs in bathrooms. Wash your hands carefully with soap and water and use paper towels or Kleenex to touch faucets and door knobs in bathrooms. Avoid touching any door knob outside your home with your bare hands.

Avoid close contact with sick people. Assume all surfaces outside your home are contaminated by these highly infectious viruses. Do consider wearing a mask when around people who are known to be sick with the flu and on crowded subways, trains, buses and planes. Certainly you should avoid the social “kiss-kiss”.  I think the elbow bump is the best way to make social contact during flu season!

Treatment

Treatment is aimed at reducing the severity of symptoms and may include medications to relieve aches and fever, bed rest and plenty of fluids. Contact your healthcare provider if you have symptoms of the flu. There are three FDA-approved influenza antiviral drugs recommended by CDC for use against recently circulating influenza viruses:  Relenza (zanamivir), Tamiflu (oseltamivir phosphate) or Rapivab (peramivir). In order to be effective, these drugs must be started soon after the influenza infection begins.

As this year’s flu epidemic has over-crowded hospitals across the country with sick patients, an increasing number of people are seeking out virtual healthcare options that allow them to get a flu diagnosis — and in some cases, even a prescription for medication — right from their smartphones.

“If you’re sick, you’re not feeling well, the last thing you want to do is get in your car, get on the subway to go to the hospital or your doctor,” said Dr. Sharma to ABC News in an interview about the recent rise in popularity of virtual doctor visits.

“From a public health standpoint, the patient that’s infected then doesn’t infect other people,” Dr. Sharma added.  “The virtual consultation is a private encounter, where patients are one-on-one, versus being in a crowded emergency department, or waiting for hours in a doctor’s office.”

“New York-Presbyterian offers to patients its NYP On-Demand Virtual Urgent Care program, which allows users to schedule a doctor’s visit virtually through their smartphone or computer. Digital Urgent Care enables adults to instantly connect to a New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center emergency room physician for any minor illness, such as a sore throat, allergies and flu-like symptoms. Available on both the New York-Presbyterian website and mobile app, patients can speak directly to a board-certified Emergency Medicine physician via a high-definition video-conference connection.  The doctor will then assess the patient and determine if treatment can be addressed without need for an in-person visit.  If the patient does not need to travel to the hospital or a doctor’s office, the physician will advise on treatment and can prescribe medication if necessary.”

We have an estimated nine weeks of hypervigilance left in this year’s flu season. I suggest that you spend more non-work time at home: catching up on those streaming Oscar-nominated films, playing board games that are enjoying a renaissance and enjoying family time.

Let’s work together to keep each other safe throughout this flu season. Share this post with your family, friends and colleagues.

Stay well,
Dr. Pat

 

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  • Roz Warren February 6, 2018 at 4:38 pm

    Glad I got my flu shot.

    Reply