Influenza A still working area residents over even after months with it around
Fever. Body aches. Fatigue. Sore throat.
At some point, we've all been there. There being a bed or couch -- moving only for necessary tasks and hoping that the chicken noodle soup in front of us holds the magic needed to invigorate our immune systems.
And more often than not, disappointment ensues because chicken noodle soup isn't magic. Especially the kind from the can.
This year a vast majority of the population has been hit with the flu, and in some cases, the flu again. Or the flu paired with some other illness like bronchitis or sinus infections.
Influenza A, commonly known as the flu, is a very contagious air-born virus that is more prominent during winter and early spring. The virus attacks the body by spreading through the respiratory systems.
With the flu, the likelihood that a person will be running a high fever lasting for a number of days is very high. A person showing symptoms may also have body aches, weakness and fatigue, cough, sometimes congestion or sore throat.
“Sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between the flu and other respiratory infections,” Julie Rother, Health Director of Northeast Nebraska Public Health Department, said. “But usually if you have a fever and either a cough or a sore throat and some body aches that is a good indication that it is the flu.”
If a person is showing these symptoms they should contact their doctors.
“We don’t necessarily want people to go to the hospital if they are showing symptoms of the flu,” said Rother. “The flu is caused by a virus and a lot of time all we can do for it is treat the symptoms.”
Going to the hospital just increases the chance of spreading the virus to others.
That being said, people with underlying health problems, children under the age of 5 and elderly can have more complications with the flu than other people and are considered to be a higher risk. Those people should stay in very good contact with their doctors.
“If you start to notice you are having symptoms of the flu, contact your doctor as soon as possible,” Rother said.
By contacting a doctor right away they can decide whether or not to prescribe anti-viral, which can decrease or lessen the severity of the symptoms. They can also cut down the amount of time that a person is sick.
Other ways of treating the flu involve getting plenty of fluids, get a lot of rest, and taking medicine that will treat the symptoms.
“Tylenol and ibuprofen are good for reducing fevers,” said Rother. “We really don’t recommend aspirin, especially with children under the age of 18 because aspirin can cause other very serious complications for children.”
It is very important for people who are sick with the flu to stay home and not mingle with anyone. A person with a high fever should not go out until they have been fever free for over 24 hours. This will decrease the spread of germs to others.
In order to prevent the flu virus, avoid contact with sick people, wash your hands regularly with soap and water, cough into your sleeve to reduce germs on hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and finally get the flu shot.
“We highly encourage all people to get the flu shot each year,” said Rother. “That is one of your best protections against getting the flu.”
The flu shot is not 100 percent effective but if you have the flu shot, it will decrease the severity of the illness and decrease the amount of time that someone is sick with the flu.
“This years’ flu shot was a decent match,” Rother said. “No flu shot has 100 percent protection but some protection is better than none.”
The health department collects data from the clinics and hospitals to monitor the flu activity and send in samples to be tested in order to determine what viruses are circulating each year. This way, the flu vaccine is based on the type of illness in the world at the time.
There are many reasons why people won’t get a flu shot. One being that they got one in previous years and they still got the flu. They don’t think it helps. Rother explains that it takes two weeks for the flu shot to run its course in the body and take protection. If a person gets sick during this time period it means they have already been exposed to the virus.
Another reason people don’t get the flu shot is because they never had the flu and don’t want to risk their chances with getting the vaccine.
“If you never had the flu, just consider yourself very lucky,” Rother said. “If you ever had Influenza A, you would probably never go without getting the flu shot again, because it is that serious of a disease.”
So far this year in America there have been 40 deaths associated with the flu. This number is above the threshold of previous years.
According to stats from the Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska is currently at a high risk level of flu like illnesses.
There have been 34 influenza-associated outbreaks with roughly 350 hospitalizations for the flu in Nebraska just during the week of Feb. 25.
In Wayne, the first signs of influenza hit during December and it has been going strong ever since.
“I can’t remember ever having to treat influenza steadily for two months straight,” said Dr. Sam Recob at FRPS Family Medicine in Laurel and Wayne.
Another stat from the Department of Health and Human Services said the number of schools in Nebraska with a greater than 11% absence rate due to illness is 10. Wayne Public School just being under that at 10%, according to school nurse, Carolyn Harder.
“Students are usually absent from school three to five days with the flu,” Harder said. “It depends on the student.”
With the weather being nice, students get to go outside and enjoy the fresh air, instead of being inside where it is easier to spread germs.