WELLNESS--This year the flu has ransacked the nation and isn’t finished wreaking havoc quite yet. There are a few reasons this season is so bad, starting with the type. Each year, there is a different flu strain and often more than one. H3N2 is leading the way this year, which causes influenza A, and two types of influenza B. H3N2 is particularly effective when attacking the human immune system learning quickly how to get around our fighter cells and get deeper in the body and various organ systems leading to serious illness. H3N2 has historically been responsible for more hospitalizations and deaths than other strains and has been around for about 50 years.
Another variable in this years intense flu season is that it started early this year and instead of making it’s way slowly from the east coast to the west coast, it moved like wildfire throughout the entire nation in just two weeks. Hospitals were overwhelmed with a number of them setting up giant tents outside of the hospital to triage emergency flu patients because there were too many to fit in the hospitals.
There are plenty of awful symptoms that go with the flu, but the one symptom to look out for that helps reveal if it’s flu and not just a nasty cold are body aches. The usual symptoms are also there such as fever, cough, sore throat, congestion, and fatigue. It’s the body aches that set the illness apart from a normal cold into flu. Many people think vomiting and diarrhea are part of the flu, but this is not always the case in adults. Those last two symptoms are more common in children.
The elderly and very young are always at a greater risk for death by the flu, but this year there have been a larger number of healthy adults and young adults with no other pre-existing conditions succumbing to death due to the flu. As of last week over 30 children have died in total from this flu, and the health officials are saying that this is the worst flu we have seen for 13 years. Close to 9000 people have been hospitalized and we haven’t seen the end of this yet.
To flu shot or not to flu shot. The vaccines for flu are hit or miss. The CDC and clinicians say everyone 6 months or older should get a yearly flu shot. After the shot it is said to take two weeks to produce the antibodies for the flu. If one still gets sick with flu after the shot it is said they will get a less intense form of the flu. The shot is far from perfect because there is some guess work involved when they are creating the shot. Each year there are different strains of flu or flu’s that move across the world change. Experts say that in general flu shots work best against H1N1 and have much lower protection against H3N2, which is the flu we are dealing with now. This year they are putting the effectiveness of the shot at about 30%
There is also some evidence that if one gets the flu shot one year and skips it the following year there is a chance one will contract a much worse flu than if they hadn’t gotten the shot the year prior. Due to that research some people that are healthy and neither young children nor elderly decide against getting the flu shot at all. Instead, if they feel the dreaded body aches coming on they go get the Tamiflu injection immediately. The sooner that medication is given the more likely it will shorten the flu and help reduce symptoms.
If you have a sick person with the flu that you are taking care of be sure to watch to be sure they are still drinking fluids. If they stop, get them to the doctor or hospital immediately. Also, if they stop urinating this is a sign the flu may have affected the kidneys and they need to seek medical attention. Another risk factor is if someone has pain in a specific place in their chest they may be dealing with pneumonia and they need medical attention immediately. Finally, a very high fever that can’t be controlled with medication is a big red flag.
(Christian Cristiano is an acupuncturist in LA, TV host of Wellness for Realists and writes on wellness regularly for CityWatch. Christian can be reached at 310.909.6956 twitter: @CristianoWFR