Three ways to fight the flu

Flu season is starting to hit hard, but it's not too late to prevent infection

2016fluseasonEven as this year’s influenza (flu) virus reaches its peak, there are still ways to lessen your chances of getting sick and — if you’ve already got it — reduces chances of spreading the flu to someone else. Here are three easy tips for fighting the flu:

Get a flu shot

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Scheduling an annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu and prevent spreading the infection. The CDC suggests everyone six months of age and older get a flu vaccine every year.

Protect yourself and prevent the spread of flu

Wash your hands regularly with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and cover your mouth for coughs and sneezes. It’s also wise to avoid contact with sick people, as well as avoid sharing food, drink or utensils with anyone.

If you’re sick, avoid close contact with people

If you become sick with a flu-like illness, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. The CDC recommends staying home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities. Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine, such as Tylenol.

Children younger than 2 years old, adults 65 and older and people with certain medical conditions can be at higher risk for complications due to flu and should seek medical attention. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between having a mild illness versus something more serious.

Good to know

Is the flu bug out to get you?

fluThe FLU virus is thought to be spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu viruses may also spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Patients with cancer and immune-compromised patients are NOT at an increased risk for getting the flu, but they are at an increased risk for complications from the flu. But there are steps you can take to stop the flu bug from getting to you.

According to FLU.gov, a website managed Continue reading

The 2014 flu shot: What’s new and why get it now

vaccine imageNow is a great time to roll up your sleeve because the flu vaccine takes two weeks to kick in, says Elizabeth Jones, M.D., a family physician at the University of Michigan Health System’s Livonia Health Center. Everyone 6 months of age and older is encouraged to get their yearly flu vaccine, ideally in the fall.

More must-know flu season information

Needle-free season for kids. New this year, the nasal spray vaccine has become the preferred flu vaccine for healthy children ages 2-8. Studies suggest it may work better than a flu shot in younger children. But don’t delay getting vaccinated to find the nasal spray vaccine, Jones says.

A boost for seniors. Adults age 65 and older, there’s an alternative for you: a high-dose vaccine that new research shows is 24 percent more effective at preventing flu. As we age our immune system Continue reading

What can flu history teach us about this year’s outbreak?

A Q&A with U-M medical historian Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D.

New York policeman with flu mask - 1918

A New York City policeman wears a mask to avoid catching the 1918 flu.

The flu is back in force this year — especially a strain that attacks younger, healthier people and can cause serious, even life-threatening, illness.

Fortunately, this year’s vaccine can protect against it — unlike in 2009, when the same strain of the virus arrived after the vaccine was made.

And it’s a far better situation than back in 1918, when a slightly different strain killed 650,000 Americans.

Those two historic outbreaks can teach us a lot, says University of Michigan Medical historian and pediatrician Howard Markel, M.D., Ph.D. His team has studied flu history for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Q: What does studying past flu outbreaks teach us about flu? Isn’t this a virus we know a lot about already?
A: What’s really interesting is that as much as we know, we still don’t know that much about flu. We know more than we did in 1918 – but we still don’t have a lot of good information. Continue reading

Tips for dealing with fever in your family

Tips for families with feversWith flu season upon us, many families are suffering fevers and sickness at the same time. As a mother of three, I’ve felt how difficult it is to be a parent to a sick child while sick yourself. Most recently, all five of us were sick at once. I’d like to share some best practices I use in my family and offer my patients to keep comfortable and recover from a fever.

The truth about fever

First, let’s address some  common myths about fever. Some of the misconceptions can be quite alarming—including the idea that high temperatures cause brain damage.  Continue reading

Answers to your questions about flu vaccination and prevention

Bottom line: it's not too late to get your vaccination

We reported our first case of influenza this season to the public health department in Oct. 2013 and have since hospitalized hundreds of patients with suspected or confirmed flu.  Flu

Many of those patients are young and otherwise healthy, and some were transferred to U-M from other hospitals because their flu was so severe. Most cases are the H1N1 strain of flu.

Estimated flu activity level in Michigan has been upgraded to ‘widespread’ activity to reflect recent increases in lab-confirmed influenza cases in the southwest and central regions of Michigan.

Answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the flu:

Q: What are the symptoms of H1N1? Are the symptoms for the H1N1 strain different than a seasonal flu?
A: The symptoms of H1N1 are not different from other strains of influenza. These include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.  The onset of symptoms is frequently rapid. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea as well as respiratory symptoms without a fever.  Continue reading