Influenza 101 - Spring Message

Like it or not, the flu season is here again. Just as it was last year, there is a severe shortage of the flu vaccine. The shortage, however, appears to be worse this year. The inevitable outcome is that a lot more people are going to be afflicted with the flu this year than would ordinarily be the case. We expect this to be doubly true in the case of children and the elderly despite recent CDC guidelines that place a priority on the vaccination of little children, the sick and the elderly.

The flu is a contagious illness that is caused by a virus known as the influenza virus. This is a particularly successful virus in that it is able to reinvent itself every year as it makes it’s circuit around the globe. It makes yearly minor changes on it’s coating, as if changing clothes at the end of each trip around the world. These changes enable it to withstand the previous year’s vaccine. The result is that we have to keep coming up with a new vaccine every year, since last year’s shot is useless against this year’s flu strain.

The answer my friend is blowing in the …aerosol. The flu is typically passed from person to person through cough and sneeze mists or aerosols. One can also acquire it by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one’s own nose or mouth. This is why children are so vulnerable to contracting the flu virus. Little children are also easily exposed when their adult care- givers are infected. They cannot avoid being handled by their sick parents. They also tend to suffer more severe symptoms once they get infected. 

Well, the only way to tell with absolute certainty is to do a lab test. This is often not necessary, however, since the symptoms of the disease and the flu season are both fairly well known. Occasionally though sporadic cases of the flu would happen outside the established flu season. Wind currents and air travel make this possible.

The most common symptoms are Runny Nose, Stuffy Nose, Cough, Sore Throat, Vomiting, Severe Head Aches, Loss of Appetite, High Fever, Generalized Weakness, and Severe Body Aches. That’s not all. What starts out a regular case of the flu could also be complicated in children with ear infections, Sinus infections, Pneumonia, Respiratory Distress and Heart Failure. This is particularly true of children with chronic health conditions.

Children 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine every year, particularly if they were premature, have asthma, or any other lung or heart disease. If your child is already showing signs of the flu, he/she should be seen by the Pediatrician ASAP. 

Augustine Akalonu