The flu has further tightened its grip on the U.S. This season it is now as bad as the swine flu epidemic nine years ago, according to Medical Xpress.
A government report out Friday shows one of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough and other symptoms of the flu. That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. during swine flu in 2009.
And it surpasses every winter flu season since 2003, when the government changed the way it measures flu.
“I wish that there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Flu season usually takes off in late December and peaks around February. This season started early and was widespread in many states by December. Early last month, it hit what seemed like peak levels—but then continued to surge.
The season has been driven by a nasty type of flu that tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other more common flu bugs. Still, its long-lasting intensity has surprised experts, who are still sorting out why it’s been so bad. One possibility is that the vaccine is doing an unusually poor job; U.S. data on effectiveness is expected next week.
I have written an entire page on fighting the flu which you can access here – How to fight the flu. For the record, I recommend flu shots. I know that this is an emotional hot button for people, so if you are against them fine. Your call. I am aware that this year’s flu shot was off as far as nailing the virus and it has been called only 10 percent effective. Okay, that is not as good as the usual round of vaccinations, but I will still take it against no shot.
I would like to conclude with a very down to earth recommendation that I hope you will heed. Keep your hands clean. You can bring flu bugs into your body by touching a dirty surface and moving your hands to your face. The virus enters through your open mouth, nose and eyes. If you ride public transportation, wear gloves to hold on to the strap or pole. You don’t know who held it previously or what germs they were carrying. Likewise, in your public dealings. I live in a high rise building. So, I touch a lot of surfaces, elevator buttons, door handles, etc. that others touch. So, I am carrying hand wipes as well as a liquid disinfectant that I rub on my hands.
Here is what the CDC says about flu germs spread:
Person to Person
People with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
To avoid this, people should stay away from sick people and stay home if sick. It also is important to wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Eating utensils can be washed either in a dishwasher or by hand with water and soap and do not need to be cleaned separately. Further, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill.
The Flu Is Contagious
Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.
We have long weeks ahead of us till the flu threat abates, stay clean.