The Flu Season
The season has changed and it is now Fall or Autumn, which marks the transition from summer to winter. It comes with the beautiful change in the color of the landscape as the trees gradually change color from green to orange and brown. It is beautiful. However, do not forget that fall is affiliated with flu. Hence, it is called the "Flu season". This is because the Flu viruses are common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time, the activity peaks between December and February and can last as late as May.
Last Flu season, I published an article on the Myths and Facts about the Flu. You can read about it here.
Also earlier in the year, I published another article on The Flu and You. You can read about that here.
Influenza (the Flu) is an acute respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B.
We know it predominantly occurs in winter.
It generally presents following an incubation period of 1-2 days with acute onset of upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms, myalgias (pain in the muscle), fevers, and generalized body weakness.
Influenza can be diagnosed by Rapid antigen tests which usually has a sensitivity of only 40 -60 %.
Also, diagnosis may be established through Polymearse Chain Reaction(PCR) testing or viral culture.
The antiviral drugs Zanamivir and Oseltamivir can be used prophylactically or to treat existing infection in at-risk individuals; most effective when given within 48 hours of exposure or at symptom onset.
Most influenza strains have become resistant to Amantadine and Rimantadine.
What is New this Flu Season?
Baloxavir marboxil (trade name Xofluza®) is a new influenza single-dose antiviral drug approved October 24, 2018 by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Baloxavir marboxil is approved for the treatment of acute uncomplicated flu in people 12 years old and older who have had flu symptoms for less than 48 hours.
Pneumonia is the primary complication of influenza. Risk factors include diabetes mellitus and cardiopulmonary disease. Which means that patients that have underlying heart or lung-related problems are at a higher risk of developing pneumonia if they ever have a flu.
Patients > 50 years of age and nursing home residents are also at risk.
Secondary bacterial pneumonia, often from Streptococcus pneumoniae, is an important complication and is responsible for one-quarter of influenza-related deaths.
Other complications include myositis, rhabdomyolysis, Central nervous system involvement, myocarditis and pericarditis.
The Concept of Herd Immunity.
When you come across the word "herd", what comes to mind?
For me, it is a herd of Cattle or a herd of elephants. Herd is a word that just refers to a group of animals or people who live and travel together.
Herd immunity, however, is resistance to the spread of a contagious disease within a population that results if a sufficiently high proportion of individuals are immune to the disease, especially through vaccination.
Herd immunity is a form of indirect protection from infectious disease that occurs when a large percentage of a population has become immune to an infection, thereby providing a measure of protection for individuals who are not immune.
This can effectively stop the spread of disease in the community. It is particularly crucial for protecting people who cannot be vaccinated. These include children who are too young to be vaccinated, people with immune system problems, and those who are too ill to receive vaccines (such as some cancer patients).
What can you do?
Get your Flu shot!
The annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all patients > 6 months of age who lack contraindications.
Do not be caught unawares. Do not be like me, who did not get a Flu vaccine on time last season till after I came down with the Flu. Believe me, the Flu is not pretty at all. It is worse than the common cold. I learnt my lesson , I got my flu shot already this season! You should get yours and encourage all your loved ones to do the same.
Getting your flu shot does not only protect you , but it protects your friends, family, and neighbors ,as I explained earlier due to herd immunity.
Getting the flu shot reduces the risk of possible complications from it.
"Life is not merely being alive, but being well".
-Marcus Valerius Martialis