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House Calls: Flu season is here

The flu is here in full force.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the flu is reported to be widespread and considered to be at a high level in our area. It has been reported that four southern states have been hit the hardest, including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.

This year’s flu has been the hardest on young and middle aged adults. In previous years the flu was most dangerous to adults age 65 and older and children under the age of two. The majority (62 percent) of patients hospitalized from the flu this season are between the ages of 18 and 64. There have been 2,600 hospitalizations between October and January, caused from the flu.

The predominant virus this year is H1N1 or Swine Flu, which is the one that caused so much trouble in 2009. It was reported that there were 284,000 deaths worldwide caused by H1N1 in 2009. Approximately 7 percent of all deaths in the United States this season were caused by pneumonia or influenza. So far, there have been 22 deaths due to the flu, seven of which were young and middle aged adults.

The best way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine. The Center for Disease Control recommends the flu vaccine for individuals six months and older. This year only 40 percent of individuals that were eligible for flu vaccine received one. This year, I have seen people who had the vaccine and still got the flu. However, H1N1 was immunized against this year. The flu vaccine may lessen the severity of the illness and you could still get a milder case of the flu instead of a more severe one.

The common symptoms of the flu are fever, body aches, headache, cough, congestion, nausea, and vomiting. Unfortunately, many of these symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses. Type A, H1N1 has more severe symptoms and fever generally above 100. You may have just one or you could have many of the symptoms listed above. The faster you seek medical treatment the quicker you can start treatment.

Your doctor will do an examination on you and may do a nasal swab flu test if warranted. If you test positive, medicine will be prescribed. Tamiflu is still considered to be the drug best for the flu. If treated within 24 hours symptoms resolve very quickly. You can be contagious from five to seven days of initial symptoms. You may get the flu between one and four days after exposure. Hand washing is still the best way to prevent the spread of viruses and bacteria.

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