If you are experiencing pain in the muscles, congestion runny nose, fatigue, chills, cough, headache or a
fever, you may have Influenza. Flu season typically lasts from December through early spring. Dr. Franklin G. Bivens Jr, MD, who has a family Medical practice in Heber Springs stated that he started seeing flu patients ten to 20 days before Christmas, mostly middle school students at that time and later those of all ages. Bivens says although flu activity has slowed at his practice this past week it is the worst he has seen in five or six years.
At the Heber Springs Clinic, Nurse Sandra Wildman LPN says they started seeing patients the end of November and of all age ranges, from the very young, to patients in their 60s and 70s. She reports that these patients have experienced about equal amounts of Flu A and Flu B. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says there are four types of influenza. Human type A and type B cause the seasonal epidemics we see every winter, type C is a milder form thought to only cause minor respiratory illness, and type D affects cattle and is not known to infect people. Bivens and Wildman both stated that the severity of symptoms was less in those patients that had been vaccinated. Wildman recommends that you “Limit your exposure to public places” to lessen your chances of contracting the virus.
The flu vaccine was found to be only moderately effective this year at preventing the flu but does shorten the duration of the illness and prevents death. October is the best time to get vaccinated because it takes two weeks to achieve full immunity however it’s still not too late to get the vaccine. Everyone six months and older is recommended for the vaccine with a few rare exceptions. Talk to your Doctor if you have any questions or concerns about getting the vaccine.
An area Nurse wants the community to be aware of the dangers of pneumonia which is the leading cause of death during flu season. She recommends seeking medical treatment immediately for any fever over 102 degrees that you cannot bring down. Even in a mild year the flu, according to the CDC, kills nearly 12,000 Americans and in a bad year the number may exceed 56,000. Those most susceptible are the elderly, children under the age of five and middle aged adults with other health issues, but each year healthy people die from flu complications also.
Bivens recommends staying home if you have a fever to prevent the spread to others and to “Wash your hands frequently”. Soap and water is best but alcohol based hand sanitizers can be used as well.
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine cannot be calculated as of yet because the flu is still spreading however according to the C.D.C. the antiviral flu medications such as Tamiflu and Relenza are working. To be effective they need to be taken as early as possible when symptoms appear. Best results are obtained when these medications are started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.