Hacky cough, runny, congested nose, sore throat, body aches, fever, chills, headache – the flu is misery. It’s not just a cold. It hits hard and fast and knocks you down.
Influenza is also preventable. All you have to do is get a flu shot. You’ll be protecting not only yourself but also your family, your neighbors, your co-workers, everyone you meet. The more vaccinations there are, the fewer flu cases there are. It’s that simple. While the flu shot isn’t guaranteed to prevent the illness, you are much more likely to have a mild case. The flu vaccine does not cause flu.
By the middle of December, the state of New York had confirmed more than 8000 cases of influenza. The actual number of cases is much higher for a number of reasons. Many people simply stay home and suffer through it. They never see the doctor. In other cases, the physician treats on the basis of the symptoms and doesn’t test. The CDC recommends that once a local area establishes that influenza is present, a doctor should treat, based on the clinical picture. Flu testing is only recommending in patients at high risk. In addition, the test for flu is only 40-60% accurate. Half the tests come up with a false negative.
Of the 8253 confirmed cases of influenza, 1109 were in Nassau County with another 411 in Suffolk County. Nearly one-fifth of the flu cases in New York are on Long Island.
Young, healthy people, who catch the virus, will generally get sick and be miserable for about a week, with a cough that can linger for over a month. However, people with chronic illnesses, seniors, children, babies, and pregnant women are all at risk for complications of influenza. Children, especially are likely to develop ear infections because of the swelling of the back of the throat, which blocks drainage from the middle ear. Healthy adults can come down with sinus infections, or even pneumonia, during or after a case of influenza.
Pneumonia, associated with flu, can be very serious, even deadly. In addition, there are other severe complications. The heart can become inflamed, causing a condition called myocarditis, which can be fatal. The brain can also become inflamed, which is called encephalitis. Severe cases are also fatal. When the inflammation is in muscle tissue, the condition is called myositis. Severe cases, called rhabdomyolysis, can cause kidney and respiratory failure and death. The flu can kill.
The CDC reported in mid-December that there had been 3.7 million confirmed cases of influenza across the United States. And the numbers are rising. Health care workers are becoming overloaded with flu cases in the offices, clinics and hospital ERs around the country.
By December 13, 170.7 million doses of influenza vaccine had been dispensed to physicians and health care providers in America. More doses are being sent out every day. It is imperative to get those individuals, who are at risk for complications, vaccinated. Kids and seniors are often exposed more than other people in schools and elder care and nursing facilities. They are also the groups who are most likely to develop fatal complications.
The flu season is just starting to peak. The cases on Long Island and across the country are going to increase. Getting vaccinated protects you from severe illness and most vaccinated people never get sick. Getting your kids vaccinated protects them and all the children they go to school with. The influenza vaccine does not cause illness. It protects you from illness. It is not too late to get a flu shot. Do it today.