The first global pandemic that had occurred in 40 years hit worldwide last year!  A nasty virus called “H1N1 Influenza” spread throughout the globe.  Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can be mild or severe, and can cause death in older persons, youngsters, and those who have certain underlying health conditions.  The H1N1 virus did not seem to affect older citizens as much as young adults, some of them in good health. 

Signs of influenza are body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, and stuffy nose.  “Stomach flu” is not influenza.  There are certain antiviral medications that your healthcare provider may wish to prescribe for you.  Prevention is the key: annual flu vaccine.  Scientists make up a different vaccine each year because strains of influenza vary from year to year.  Experts are predicting we will see more of the H1N1 bug, as well as other viruses.  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 strain and two other influenza viruses.  If you take the shot, and still get the flu, the severity of it should be reduced. 

Symptoms of the common cold, which strikes more than one billion victims per year in the United States, are scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing.  Bed rest, fluids, gargling with warm salt water, using lozenges and throat sprays are common treatments for colds.  Colds are usually milder than flu and most often do not result in serious health problems.  Some over-the- counter medications might help.  Antibiotics will not kill viruses or prevent bacterial infections.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not be given aspirin when they have a viral illness such as a cold.  Contact your pediatrician for best advice. 

When it comes to the common cold or influenza, here are some ways to help you  prevent and/or cope with either one of them: 

  • Avoid touching shared telephones, computers, stairway rails, doorknobs, money, and after doing so, wash hands properly!
  • Use alcohol-based disinfecting products for your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently, and teach your children to do so as well.
  • Try not to get too close to someone who is sneezing, coughing.
  • Stay away from others if you are sneezing or coughing.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not hands.
  • While you are ill, stay home, DO NOT PASS GO, and get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.  Don’t take your germs to work or school, get well first!

Other respiratory viruses that curculate during flu season are non-flu viruses that include rhinovirus – one source of the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children and persons age sixty-five and older.

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, think seriously about getting one.  Let’s try to stay ahead of the “bugs” this year!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control

Nat’l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases