WINTER 2019 INFLUENZA                                                                                                                                       

Influenza is in full force this winter.  I’ve already seen it tear through one of our families.  Their 10-month-old got very sick, and it even put the father in bed for 3 days.  Influenza is like a cold on steroids!  Symptoms include:  body aches, fevers, chills, fatigue, headache, sore throat, runny nose. Children can sometimes have vomiting and diarrhea as well.

WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL?                                                                                                                                                        

Influenza can cause serious complications, including:  pneumonia, respiratory failure, hospitalization and even sometimes death.  These complications are especially common among infants, elderly, and people with chronic illnesses (diabetes 1 and 2, heart disease, lung disease, etc).

In medical school, my microbiology teacher told me, “Of all the bacteria, fungi, parasites and viruses you’ve learned about, there is one that scares me the most…” (dramatic pause while we all tuned in) “…Influenza!”  He went on to explain genetic shifts and drifts and how, if a significant genetic change to the virus occurs (one that people’s immune systems aren’t familiar with), it could cause massive complications.

This has occurred a few times over the years; the most significant genetic mutation was the Spanish flu of 1918.  This pandemic was the deadliest in recorded history.  It infected an estimated 500 million people worldwide—about one-third of the planet’s population—and killed an estimated 20 million to 50 million victims, including some 675,000 Americans.

HOW TO PREVENT INFLUENZA?                                                                                                                                   

The CDC recommends flu vaccinations each year to decrease the spread and severity of disease.  Flu vaccinations can be given to people starting at 6 months and older, depending on age and health status.  Vaccinations help the body’s immune system become familiar with influenza so that if it encounters the virus, it can fight it off quickly and easily.  If you’ve been vaccinated and “catch” the flu, you’ll experience fewer and less severe symptoms than you would otherwise.  If you’re vaccinated, the flu will probably feel like a regular cold (lasting 2-3 days) instead of knocking you completely out of commission for 10 days.

Sometimes influenza mutates to a different strain than the one to which you were immunized.  This happened two years ago when the predominant strain of influenza was not consistent with the vaccine.  Those who were vaccinated and contracted the flu did get sicker that year than they had during years where the vaccine hit the target, but it still helped somewhat.

Does the flu shot actually cause the flu?  No!  This is a common misconception.  It can, however, give you slight flu-like symptoms for a few days.  I got mine last week, and I had a sore shoulder for a couple of days but that was about it.

WHAT IF I CATCH THE FLU?                                                                                                                                               

First, we have to decide if it will be beneficial to test for it.  You should consider testing if:  you are pregnant, have small children, or are elderly.  You should also consider testing if you have a serious medical condition or are immunocompromised (type 1 diabetes, emphysema, COPD, asthma, heart failure).  If you’d like to be tested for flu, you can come in to Voyage DPC for a $30 test (with membership).  There are many pharmacies who offer the test as well.

If you suspect that you have contracted the flu, the earlier you come in for testing, the better.   If you get tested and require treatment with Tamiflu, it is helpful to get the medication onboard as early as possible (first 48 hours).  If you are not at high risk for flu complications but you live with someone who is (elderly, infants, pregnant women, people with chronic disease), you may want to get tested as well.  This will allow us to consider preventive treatment for other family members who are at high risk.

VOYAGE DIRECT PRIMARY CARE                                                                                                                                     

At Voyage DPC, we are fixing healthcare. We are happy to help with your influenza needs.  We are available for same-day or next-day visits.  We also offer osteopathic lymphatic treatments and adjustments shown to mobilize lymphatics and optimize your immune system.

We hope this post has been educational for you.  We love to teach and help other optimize our members’ lives and wellness as we help them navigate healthcare.

Enjoy the Journey!

John Sanders,D.O.                                                                                                                                                                   Family Physician