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What To Expect If You Get The Flu

One of my dear friends just came down with influenza, and she asked me for some advice. Top of mind questions included – When can I go back to work? And when will I get better? So in a nutshell, here’s what I told her (borrowing heavily from the CDC website):

  1. The most common flu symptoms are: Fever or feeling feverish/chills; Cough; Sore throat; Runny or stuffy nose; Muscle or body aches; Headaches; Fatigue (feeling very tired)
  2. Adults shed influenza virus from the day before symptoms begin through 5—10 days after illness onset. However, the amount of virus shed, and presumably infectivity, decreases rapidly by 3—5 days after onset.
  3. Most experts believe that flu viruses 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. 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, eyes or possibly their nose.
  4. Uncomplicated influenza illness typically resolves after 3—7 days for the majority of persons, although cough and malaise can persist for >2 weeks.
  5. The 2011–12 U.S. seasonal influenza vaccine virus strains are identical to those contained in the 2010–11 vaccine. Annual vaccination is recommended even for those who received the vaccine for the previous season. Vaccination is the most effective prevention strategy available to reduce your risk of catching the flu.
My suggestions: Don’t go in to work (if you have the option) until 5 days after illness onset. If you go in earlier, you can wear a little face mask (and use Purell or other alcohol-based hand sanitizer) to prevent spread of the virus. Next year, get your flu shot early in the season.
As far as treatment is concerned, the Mayo Clinic recommends: LIQUIDS, REST, and TYLENOL or IBUPROFEN for pain. No vitamins or supplements have been shown to shorten the course of the flu.
P.S. My suggestions are relevant for “garden variety” flu sufferers. If you are immuno-compromised, elderly, or otherwise in a high risk category, please check out the CDC website for more information.

Free And Convenient Flu Vaccines Increase Vaccination Rates In Healthcare Workers

Far more health care workers got flu vaccines this year than at the same point last year, according to a survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, although rates are still far less than ideal.

While flu vaccination rates among health care professionals have risen slowly over the past decade, less than half this group were vaccinated until the 2009-10 season, when an estimated 62% of health care workers received seasonal flu vaccines and an additional 2% of workers got only the H1N1 influenza vaccination, the report said. In the 2010-11 season, 63.5% of health care professionals reported flu vaccination.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends that all health care professionals get the flu vaccine every year, and the national Healthy People 2020 objective for health care professionals influenza vaccination is 90%. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at ACP Hospitalist*

It’s Not Too Late for You AND Your Patients to Get a Flu Vaccine

Getting a flu vaccine is on many “to do” lists in the fall, but for those who still haven’t checked it off their list, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Many people don’t realize that flu activity usually peaks in the United States in January or February, and flu viruses can circulate as late as May. As long as there’s flu around, it isn’t too late to get vaccinated.

Getting a yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against the flu, and CDC recommends influenza vaccination for everyone age 6 months and older. We urge you and all health care professionals to get vaccinated yourselves and offer flu vaccine at every opportunity to every patient—except infants younger than 6 months and the very few people for whom flu vaccination is contraindicated.

Studies show that your recommendation makes the difference in your patients’ decision to get a flu vaccine. You should continue to emphasize the importance of flu vaccination for your patients. And, if you don’t already do so, consider offering flu vaccines to patients in your own practice, even if yours is a sub-specialty practice and you don’t see yourself as a vaccine provider. Even if you don’t offer flu vaccines, you can still recommend and emphasize the importance of flu vaccination as a way to keep your patients—and their families—protected throughout the season.

As promising as it is sounds that flu vaccination rates are increasing among children and healthcare personnel, Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Safe Healthcare*

Don’t Fly Delta: Airline Runs Anti-Vaccine Videos Against Medical Advice

I’ve been following the recent Delta airlines flu vaccine kerfuffle with interest and now amazement. After running in-flight infomercials by a notorious anti-vaccine group (NVIC), the American Academy of Pediatrics alerted Delta to the faux pas with a letter from president Robert W. Block, M.D. I had assumed that Delta would be grateful for the head’s up, and would immediately remove the infomercials. Instead, they chose to ignore the letter, denying that they saw any harm in associating themselves with anti-vaccine activists. Despite the warning, they will continue to run the ads through the month of November.

Every year the influenza virus kills as many as 49,000 Americans and 500,000 individuals world-wide. According to the CDC, the best defense against these often preventable deaths is the influenza vaccine. Since viral spread is especially likely in closed quarters where air from infected individuals is recirculated (such as in an airplane) it is critical for extra precautions to be taken before and during air travel. In addition to yearly flu vaccination, the use of alcohol-based hand wipes, regular hand washing, covering one’s mouth during coughing, are recommended. Since the flu virus can live in droplets outside the body for up to 48 hours, door knobs, seat covers and tray tables can spread the virus from passengers on previous flights.

I don’t understand why Delta, Read more »

Chinese Study Compares Flu Treatments: Prescription Drug Vs. Herbal Remedy

During the early days of the 2009 H1N1 influenza A pandemic, the popular herbal formula maxingshigan–yinqiaosan was used widely by TCM practitioners to reduce symptoms. (It’s hard to pronounce and spell, so I’ll refer to it as M-Y.) A new study was done to test whether M-Y worked and to compare it to the prescription drug oseltamivir. It showed that M-Y did not work for the purpose it was being used for: it did not reduce symptoms, although it did reduce the duration of one sign, fever, allowing researchers to claim they had proved that it works as well as oseltamivir.

“Oseltamivir Compared With the Chinese Traditional Therapy: Maxingshigan–Yinqiaosan in the Treatment of H1N1 Influenza” by Wang et al. was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine earlier this month. The study was done in China, which is notorious for only publishing positive studies. Even if it were an impeccable study, we would have to wonder if other studies with unfavorable results had been “file-drawered.” It’s not impeccable; it’s seriously peccable.

It was randomized, prospective, and controlled; but not placebo controlled, because they couldn’t figure out how to prepare an adequate placebo control. They considered that including Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

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