Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's up with flu this season?

I've just started seeing patients with influenza this month. No lack of people coming in for "flu" since winter began, but most of these visits are for any number of other circulating viruses. The miserable souls dragging their sorry selves into my exam room here lately have been hit hard and fast with fever, chills, bone-deep aching, headache, and a cough that generates from the depth of their being. All save one passed on flu shots, and the latter had a mild version of all of the above, puzzling until I realized she'd gotten vaccinated earlier which softened the blow.

Good news here is that this year's shot, for those of you who got it, is a good match for the strains currently flying through the air in projectile spittle. The CDC's latest update confirms my observations that true influenza is here, and the predominate strain is A/H3N2 which is not that scary H1N1 "swine" flu that showed up last year (although that one's going around as well). The H3N2 virus hits hardest amongst young children and older adults. And I'm here to tell you that the in-betweeners are pretty darn miserable too.

If you have an underlying illness such as asthma or COPD, beat feet to your doc's at the first sign of true flu. This year's strains are still sensitive to Tamiflu, but official recommendations are that this drug only be given to those who either are at risk for or suffering from progressive disease.