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Flu season may come early in 2019

Across the United States, cases of the flu are already popping up. Some news reports are saying that the flu could come earlier this year. So, let’s take a moment to discuss what you need to know about the flu.Holly Hink

What is the Flu

Influenza (or more commonly called the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or death. Some people, such as older people, young children, and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.

There are two main types of influenza (flu) virus: Types A and B. The influenza A and B viruses that routinely spread in people (human influenza viruses) are responsible for seasonal flu epidemics each year.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that, from October 1, 2018-May 4, 2019 there have been: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm

  • 37.4 million – 42.9 million flu illnesses
  • 17.3 million – 20.1 million flu medical visits
  • 531,000 – 647,000 flu hospitalizations
  • 36,400 – 61,200 flu deaths!

How does the flu spread
Flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Sometimes, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes.

Flu symptoms
Flu is different from a cold. As it usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness). Also vomiting and diarrhea can be a symptom.

Period of flu contagiousness
You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.

Onset of flu symptoms
The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about two days, but can range from about one to four days days.

Flu complications
Most people who get the flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop complications some of which can be life-threatening and result in death. These can include:

  • pneumonia
  • sinus and ear infections
  • inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) and/or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis)
  • multi-organ failure (such as respiratory and kidney failure)

Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu.

People at high risk from flu
Anyone can get sick with flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and children younger than 5 years old, but especially those younger than 2 years old.

How to prevent the flu
The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year. All people 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death.

CDC also recommends everyday preventive actions such as staying away from people who are sick, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and frequent handwashing to help slow the spread of germs that cause illnesses like the flu. Read more at www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.

Where to receive a flu vaccine in Campbell County, Wyoming
The Campbell County Healthcare Foundation’s Vaccines for Influenza Prevention (VIP) program partners with the Campbell County School District and Campbell County Public Health to provide free flu vaccines for all students. Parents must have the consent forms turned in to the school by Friday, September 27.

Visit www.cchwyo.org/flu411 for a list of additional places to receive a flu vaccine.

Holly Hink, APRN, CPNP, works at the Campbell County Medical Group Kid Clinic, a school-based pediatric clinic in Gillette, Wyoming. The medical clinic serves children ages 2 weeks to 18 years old; and counseling services for children 4 years old to 21 years old. It is located at 800 Butler Spaeth Rd., across from St. Matthew’s Catholic Church. The Kid Clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 am-5 pm. For more information, call 307-688-8700 or visit www.cchwyo.org/kidclinic.

The Kid Clinic is a collaborative effort between Campbell County Health and Campbell County School District.