It’s impossible to pinpoint just when flu season will strike; it may occur in the early fall or later in winter. What we do know is that influenza, small RNA viruses that replicate and change rapidly, will at the least cause misery and at the worst result in major pandemics killing millions of people. The group of influenza viruses includes: Influenza A with subtypes such as H1N1, H2N2, H3N2, H5N1, etc. and Influenza B & C. All types are transmitted by respiratory droplets; coughing, sneezing or blowing or wiping your nose with your hands.
The Influenza A group is commonly an illness of birds – thus the term “bird flu”, but it can mutate and spread in humans. Influenza A tends to cause the most severe illnesses and is sometimes responsible for over 100,000 deaths annually. During the pandemic of 1918, some estimate that more than 5 million people died, many who were young and healthy days before the flu hit.
So what can you do to protect yourself and your family?
Researchers across the globe work year-round to predict which strains of the flu will cause the majority of illness in the year to come. Based on that research, vaccines are developed annually to help create immunity from those dominant viruses. Some years the vaccines are very effective, other years they do not cover the virus strain that actually circulates throughout the world. Flu vaccines for the 2015 and 2016 flu season are now available. Regardless of their level of effectiveness, flu vaccines are an important tool to protect against some of the most severe effects of the influenza virus.
Other tools that are equally important include frequent hand washing (very, very important), fist bumps or elbow bumps rather than shaking hands and putting a hold on hugs and kisses during season. If you have asthma or other chronic illnesses, certain medications can help decrease the effects of the flu virus — however, these have to be started early by your healthcare provider. If you have questions, your healthcare provider is ready to answer them and help minimize the effect of the flu on you and your family.
About Dr. Gale Skousen, MD
As a Revere Health physician, Dr. Skousen takes pride in caring for his patients. Their health and happiness are his top priority, and he takes time to educate and communicate with each of his patients. Communication is essential to an effective doctor/patient relationship. Dr. Skousen works directly with patients and families to create a healthcare plan specific to their needs and goals.