It’s here! Several cases of two different Influenza A strains have been isolated in southeast Michigan in hospitalized patients. This means there are a bunch of other folks sick with influenza walking around who just aren’t bad enough to warrant a trip to the ER.
Remember influenza isn’t the stomach flu. This illness is associated with high fever, cough runny nose, fatigue, body and headaches. Some folks will have some mild nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, but those aren’t frequent or dramatic symptoms of influenza. When you feel like you’ve been run over by a truck and your head is so heavy you can’t lift it and your eyes sting and you have a fever of 102 with cough and runny nose, you may well have influenza.
Anyone will be down for the count with influenza and miss school and work for several days and even some perfectly healthy folks will be hospitalized and get gravely ill as a result of illness. Some people, though, with certain underlying medical conditions are at even greater risk of problems. People with diabetes, asthma, heart conditions, seizures, low muscle tone or paralysis, immune system compromise, cancer and those who are very young, old, pregnant or breast feeding all suffer complications from influenza at a much higher rate than the “healthy, normal” folks do.
It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine for the season, which is your best bet to protect yourself. It’s not perfect, of course, but it will provide protection against three or four of the circulating strains this year. The younger you are the better your body responds to the vaccine, but don’t let that discourage older folks from getting it. Even senior citizens will see a response rate of about 55-60 percent, which is better than nothing! The flu shot (rather than the flumist) contains no live virus and you cannot get sick from the vaccine. It is a myth that you get the flu shot and get sick two days later. You may have caught a cold from someone else waiting in line with you, though; since most people get their flu vaccines at a drug store, doctor’s office or health department where you are bound to run into sick folks.
Talk to your healthcare provider about getting the vaccine for everyone in your household 6 months of age and older. With influenza officially in the neighborhood, there’s no time like the present!