By Cara Mahon, MCMC Pharmacist
Snow is on the ground, with sickness and influenza all around! From children to adults, we should all “B” informed…get the info and facts as we navigate this influenza storm!
Influenza made itself well known in our community the third week in December, with many local students out of school due to illness.
Presenting influenza symptoms to our local clinic included:
- high fever
- sore throat
- body aches
What We Know
The Minnesota Department of Health’s most recent influenza activity report classified the flu as widespread throughout the state with 14 new school outbreaks in the last week, bringing the total to 60 this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and experts are stating this flu season is starting off unusual (or atypical) due to the fact that the influenza B strain is the most common circulating virus at this point in time, whereas we typically see influenza A as the predominate strain, especially early in the season. The influenza B strain tends to affect children the most which is more than likely why 25% of hospitalizations due to influenza in Minnesota right now are children. Although we would like to think and hope the early start to the influenza season means it will end earlier that is not always the case and we often see two peaks of flu activity throughout the season, which lasts from October to May.
What To Do If You Have Common Influenza Symptoms
If you suddenly develop a high fever, body aches, sore throat, cough, or other symptoms that could be related to influenza, the faster you seek treatment the better, especially if you wish to be treated with antivirals like Tamiflu.
Tamiflu is an antiviral medication that fights the flu virus and can reduce the severity of symptoms and length of illness. It can also protect individuals who have been exposed to influenza but have not yet shown symptoms.
The Influenza Facts
- Influenza is highly contagious through respiratory secretions and can be transmitted from coughing and sneezing.
- After coming in contact with the virus it can take an average of two days before showing symptoms and a person may be contagious 24-48 hours before symptoms begin.
- The influenza virus can remain active on surfaces for up to 24 hours so practicing good hand washing (washing with soap and water for 20 seconds or more making sure to scrub in between fingers and under fingernails) or using hand sanitizer will help prevent the spread of the virus from door handles, countertops, or other surfaces to you and others.
- Attending school, work, going to the grocery store, local shops or restaurants puts others at risk of catching influenza, so in addition to practicing good hand hygiene, staying home when you are sick, coughing into your elbow instead of hands, cleaning and sanitizing your home (especially surfaces that are touched often- door handles, toys, countertops, cell phones, remotes, etc.), and avoiding close contact with others is the best way to prevent the spread of infection.
- You should not return to work or school until you have been fever-free for 24 hours without the use of any fever reducing medications like Tylenol or ibuprofen.
All of these practices will help keep you, your family, and our community safe from influenza and other contagious illnesses this winter.
The Flu Vaccine
As always, the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent influenza and/or reduce the symptoms if you or a loved one gets influenza. It covers both influenza A and B viruses. It is not too late to get vaccinated and we encourage all people ages 6 months and older to receive their annual flu vaccination. We still have vaccine available at Murray County Medical Center so come in today to get your flu shot and ensure you are protected from influenza all season long!
Many wishes for a healthy holiday and winter.