Minnesota experienced an early start to the 2012-13 influenza season and is now seeing vigorous, widespread activity. The first case of influenza confirmed by the Minnesota Department of Health Public Health Laboratory was very early this year – in October. In many years, the first confirmed case is not seen until Thanksgiving or early December.
Typically widespread community transmission is eight to 10 weeks after the first case, which is happening now with this year’s flu season.
The past several influenza seasons (since 2008 and excluding the pandemic) have been mild so we are not accustomed to seeing higher levels of seasonal influenza activity. The amount and severity of influenza varies from season to season; this year we are having a severe seasonal influenza year, which happens every so often.
One of the reasons why we are seeing more influenza this year may be because one of the predominant circulating strains is the H3N2 strain of the virus. In years in which H3N2 is the predominant strain, we typically see more severe cases of illness, particularly in the very young and the elderly, and more cases overall.
“We’re encouraging people to still call in and get their flu shot,” said Janae Olson, Appleton Area Health Services marketing and community relations manager. “We are also asking everyone to wear a mask and use hand sanitizer if you are experiencing flu like symptoms and need to come to our facility, and to wait until symptoms are gone to visit residents in our care center.”
Since the start of the flu season this year, nearly 600 people have been hospitalized for laboratory-confirmed flu.
The first flu-related death of the season in Minnesota was a man in his 60s who had underlying health problems. The most recent flu-related death was 14- year-old Carly Christenson, who died last week from the flu at Children’s Hospital. The St. Louis Park high school freshman, who had received a flu shot, was in good health until Christmas Eve, when her parents brought her to the hospital.
The Minnesota Department of Health officials say the current vaccine is wellmatched to the circulating strains of flu. The vaccine is not 100 percent effective for everyone who gets it, but the Health Department says it is the best defense available against the flu.
It’s not too late to get a flu shot, and still highly recommend for the very young, the very old and those with compromised immune systems.
Other ways to prevent the flu include regular hand washing with soap and water or use of an alcoholbased hand sanitizer. Practice
good “cough hygiene” by coughing into your elbow or a tissue, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
Children under age 2, adults age 65 and older, people with chronic health conditions, compromised immune systems, and women who are pregnant or have delivered a baby within the last two weeks are at a higher risk for complications. Health officials urge that these people seek medical care for the onset of flu symptoms, so they can be prescribed an anti-viral medication if indicated.
Unfortunately, it’s not just the flu making people sick. Hospitals and clinics are seeing a spike in bronchitis and other upper respiratory infections.
Influenza disease can be a gateway for secondary infections; you can have primary influenza pneumonia but more common is a secondary
bacterial infection causing pneumonia or other complications.
The best advice is to wash your hands, get plenty of rest, eat right and stay away from those who may be sick.
What is influenza (flu)?
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can be prevented by immunization. It is not the same as the “stomach flu.” Flu is
caused by a virus that attacks the nose, throat, and lungs and antibiotics are not effective against it. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death.
What are the symptoms of flu?
Influenza symptoms come on quickly in the form of fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, stuffed-up nose, and body aches. These symptoms can be severe and put you in bed for several days.
How is the flu different from a cold?
A cold generally stays up in the head while the flu brings body aches, fever, and extreme fatigue. A person with a cold will usually keep up his or her normal activities, while someone with the flu will often feel too sick to do so.
Is the flu vaccine safe?
Yes. This year’s flu vaccine is made in the same way as past flu vaccines. Flu vaccines have an excellent safety record – with an average of 100 million doses used in the U.S. each year.
Can you get the flu from the flu shot?
No. Some people do get mild flu-like symptoms for a short time after being vaccinated, but this is a sign that your body is responding to the vaccine and giving you protection. It is not the flu. Also, because there are many cold viruses cir-
What if you think you have the flu?
- Stay home if you are ill.
- Rest and drink lots of fluids.
- Antibiotics will not help a person recover from the flu, because flu is caused by a virus, not by bacteria.
- Children often need help keeping their fever under control. Follow your child’s doctor’s instructions.
- Take your child to the doctor or the emergency room if he or she:
- Breathes rapidly or with difficulty
- Has bluish skin color
- Does not drink enough and becomes dehydrated
- Does not wake up or interact with others
- Is so irritable that he or she doesn’t want to be held, or
- Gets better only to become sick again, with fever and a more severe cough
- If you are concerned that something does not seem right with your child, call your doctor or clinic. culating in the fall, it is possible that a person could be infected and become ill at the same time they receive the flu vaccine.
What can you do to protect yourself and others?
- Get vaccinated.
- Avoid being exposed to others who are sick with a flu-like illness.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
- Clean your hands often – with soap and water, or a hand sanitizer.
- Take special care to protect infants. Try not to expose them to large crowds when flu is in your community, and avoid close contact between the baby and family members who may be sick.
- Do not share drinking cups and straws.
- Clean commonly touched surfaces often (door knobs, refrigerator handles, phones, water faucets).
- Do not smoke around children.
Article courtesy of The Appleton Press