The flu virus is deadlier this year, killing an average of 100 people per week beginning last month. The flu has killed 30 children this year so far. On top of that, the University of Maryland School of Public Health published a study showing that just breathing may spread the flu. Read more.
The CDC is warning that this year’s strain, H3N2, which they are calling the “Aussie Flu” has killed 759 people since October, which is double the usual death rate here in the US.
It also said the death toll could increase as there has been a further rise in the number of hospital admissions.
Flu Spread Just by Breathing: New Univ of MD Study
“We found that flu cases contaminated the air around them with infectious virus just by breathing, without coughing or sneezing, ” according to Dr. Donald Milton, MD, MPH, professor of environmental health in the University of Maryland School of Public Health.
“People with flu (make) tiny droplets that stay suspended in the air for a long time, even when they are not coughing, and especially during the first days of illness.
So when someone is coming down with influenza, they should go home and not remain in the workplace and infect others.”
What makes this study all the more frightening is that people are contagious beginning 1 day BEFORE symptoms start — and for up to 5-10 days after the illness started.
CDC Releases Urgent Alert on Flu to Doctors
The CDC released an urgent alert to doctors reminding them that the anti-viral treatments (like Tamiflu) should be started as soon as possible and recommending that treatment “should not be delayed even for a few hours”. CDC Health Alert Network, Dec 27, 2017.
The CDC adds that even though the antiviral medicine works best if started in the first 48 hours of the illness, there can still be some benefit beyond 48 hours and therefore the recommendation is to give Tamiflu up to 72 hours after onset of illness.
“The sickest people are still clearly the ones who did not get their flu shots,” Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City is quoted as saying to CNN.
**If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine (or Pneumonia vaccine), it is not too late! Any doctors office or pharmacy can update you today.
Learn More About Flu
What are the symptoms of flu to look for?
Symptoms usually start very suddenly and often include:
- Fever of 100.4°F to 104°F, which can reach 106°F (41°C)
- Body aches and pain
- Pain when you move your eyes.
- Fatigue, a general feeling of sickness
- Loss of appetite.
- A dry cough, runny nose, and dry or sore throat.
Influenza usually does not cause symptoms in the stomach or intestines, such as vomiting and diarrhea. On the contrary, the “stomach flu” is usually associated with Norovirus or other similar virus. See previous article on Norovirus/stomach bug.
How long is Flu Contagious?
People with flu are contagious beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 10 days after becoming sick. Unfortunately, a lot of us have returned to work once our fever is gone, around days 3 or 4, but we remain contagious for up to a week more!
How is flu spread?
Most of our cough, cold and flu viruses are thought to be passed from person to person by contact with respiratory droplets.
Contact can occur by direct bodily contact (such as kissing) or touching something with virus on it (such as shaking hands with someone who has the flu) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes. Best way to prevent the flu–or any contagious illness–is frequent hand washing!
Call your doctor or go to an urgent care if:
- You have an extremely high fever (104 F or higher)
- You are finding it more difficult to get a good breath
- New symptoms localized to the ear, throat, chest or sinuses
- Symptoms don’t go away or become more severe
Be sure to be seen within 48 hours of the onset of your fever. This is important as treatment is MOST effective if started within 48 hours!
Call 911 if:
- Trouble breathing
- Severe headache or stiff neck associated with confusion or excessive drowsiness
More Flu Facts
- Between 3,000 to 49,000 people die every year from the flu
- 200,000 people are hospitalized every year due to flu
- 5-20% of the population gets the flu each year, on average
- People are contagious from the day BEFORE symptoms start
- People are contagious for 5-10 days AFTER the illness starts (days after they feel better and return to work or school.)
If you or someone in your family has sudden onset of high fever, whole body aches, chills and feels generally awful, see your provider right away. At Evolve, we can administer a rapid Flu Test to get an answer in 10 minutes. We recognize that the only anti-viral treatment available must be started within 2 days of symptom onset.
For more information, visit the Maryland Department of Health’s Flu Watch page or Anne Arundel Health Department of Health’s Flu Tips page.
If you have been experiencing fever, headache, dry cough or any of the above symptoms, please see your doctor immediately–remember that flu must be treated in the first 48 hours!