This Year's Flu Season Is Killer
According to the CDC, the flu is now hitting 49 states hard, peaking early and, in some cases, claiming lives. So far, eighteen flu deaths have been reported in Pennsylvania, and the outbreak doesn’t seem to be slowing down soon.
How many times have you heard someone undermine the severity of influenza strains?
How many times have you?
“I don’t need a shot!” “You just need to drink more orange juice.” “I have too much to do. I need the money. I can still go to work.”
“It’ll get better. It’s just the flu.”
Kyler Baughman thought so too.
Coughing, chest pains, congestion, chills. It was out of the ordinary for this fitness freak, who, often found at the gym constantly challenging himself with high-intensity training and heavy lifting, was in peak condition.
No one thought to urge rest and a visit to the doctor. Baughman went on with life as usual, showing up to one of his two jobs, unloading boxes at Walmart and laboriously exerting his body while running a fever.
His mom recalled how she thought her son was just ignoring it, waiting for it to “go away like most people [do].”
Three days after Christmas, Baughman died at UPMC Presbyterian in Pittsburgh from organ failure caused by the same illness he had been so blase about.
He was 21 years old.
The World Health Organization and The Center for Disease Control have deemed this flu to be particularly “intense”, mainly due to its worrisome peak early in the 2017-2018 season and the high rate of flu-related hospitalizations.
To compare, Daniel B. Jernigan, the director of the Influenza Division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said that this flu season has been “one of the worst” since 2009’s infamous H1N1 scare.
Of the ten regions that the CDC has been surveilling weekly, all have had elevated percentages of visits to urgent care centers and doctors offices for influenza symptoms this week.
The disease is now an epidemic.
Throughout this flu season, there have been widespread H3N2 outbreaks in 49 states, and regional cases in Hawaii and Guam.
Twenty children have died thus far, and in Pennsylvania alone, eighteen adults have had their lives claimed by the virus.
Some states have taken the matter seriously. Alabama and Texas, for example, have urged their residents to seek a healthcare provider, stay home, and monitor the progression of their symptoms. Schools have even declared “flu days” and closed their doors in order to ensure that their young students, who are especially vulnerable, stay safe.
The U.S. isn’t the only country getting hit hard by H3N2 this year. The U.K. has also reported epidemic-levels of deaths caused by the flu, expected to rise within the next couple of weeks.
Though the virus is usually self-treatable with a cocktail of Nyquil, Motrin, plenty of water, and sleep, the flu is still capable of exacerbating, developing into bacterial pneumonia or an overwhelming infection.
Bethany Walker, a Scottish teenager, passed away this past Friday from the flu that, because it was left untreated and mismanaged, rapidly intensified into a respiratory infection.
There are several preventative measures that one can take to avoid the flu this year, and if infected, tips that can mitigate the nastier effects of the virus for yourself and lessen the chance of spreading it for others.
While the flu shot is only about 30-33% effective against this year’s influenza strain, it’s better than nothing. The CDC has developed an online “Flu Finder” widget, which can lead you to the nearest flu clinic, accessible here.
Frequently washing your hands, using an anti-bacterial hand sanitizer, coughing into your sleeves, and avoiding close contact with others are some of the more obvious ways that one can protect themselves, co-workers, and friends.
Taking antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu, Relenza, or Rapivab, as well as supplementing with probiotics, has shown to help victims of the bug feel better faster. Avoiding foods that weaken white blood cells and are known to cause mucus to thicken, such as candy, cereal, soda, milk, cheese, alcohol, and refined carbs, can also be beneficial.
But, the most imperative step to take? Staying home.
If you are experiencing any of the more classic symptoms of the flu, such as: feeling feverish or having a high fever, recurring headaches, body aches, extreme fatigue, sore throat, congestion, or vomiting/diarrhea, your best bet is to call your healthcare provider and to rest. This minimizes the opportunity for contagion and minimizes the risk of aggravating the sickness.
The United States Department of Labor’s division on Occupational Safety and Health Administration recommends “developing flexible leave policies that encourage workers to stay home, without penalty, if they are sick. Discuss other human resource policies with staff, including administrative leave transfer between employees, pay policy for sick leave, childcare options, and what to do when ill during travel.”
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that, on average, most U.S. employers offer their workers 10 paid federal holidays, 10 days of vacation, two personal days, and eight sick leave days per year. However, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not legally require employers to give paid time off.
According to The Red Cross, if your symptoms include: “fast breathing, bluish skin color, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, confusion or sudden dizziness, not drinking enough fluids or being able to eat, severe or persistent vomiting, not waking up, irritability, or a rash”, please seek immediate medical attention.