Washing your hands with soap and warm water is just one of many ways to fight the flu.
As this year’s influenza (flu) virus reaches its peak in Michigan, we at the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center stress to our heart patients the importance of taking necessary precautions to avoid getting the flu — or to minimize their symptoms if they do get the flu. This includes patients whose heart health is being managed as well as our pre-op and post-op patients.
Here are some important tips for fighting the flu:
First and foremost, in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we recommend everyone, including heart patients, get an annual flu vaccine. If you’re a heart patient scheduled for surgery, you should get the flu vaccine one month prior to your surgery date. Even though this year’s flu vaccine is not an ideal match, the CDC says it can still offer important protection and help prevent serious flu complications.
If you develop flu symptoms, see your doctor right away for an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu, which can lessen your symptoms. The sooner you see your doctor, the better you’ll be able to manage your symptoms.
Keep germs at bay. The CDC recommends these methods to prevent the spread of germs:
The 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.
Now 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 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 →
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.
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 →
This year’s flu season has arrived earlier than normal. Do you know the important prevention and treatment information necessary to keep your child healthy? University of Michigan pediatrician Heather Burrows, MD, PhD, is here to answer a few questions about how to keep the flu bug at bay.
What signs and symptoms of the flu should parents be aware of?
Symptoms of influenza include a high fever, cough, often times a runny nose as well as body aches and fatigue. The difference between influenza and the common cold is usually the severity of the symptoms. Kids with influenza have higher fevers and are more fussy and tired.
When a child does have the flu, is there anything that can be done to stop it from escalating?
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