Brent Ursel PA-C –
Ebola has been in the news a lot. Planes have been diverted because someone gets air sick. A teacher in Maine is put on leave for 21 days just because she attended a conference in Dallas. Some people are afraid to even travel through the Dallas Fort Worth Airport for fear of contracting Ebola. All of this heightened concern, bordering on hysteria, for a disease that has claimed the life of one person in the United States and hospitalized two others.
Meanwhile, the early start to the 2014 Influenza season, has gone largely unreported. Typically, here in Alaska, “flu season” starts in November and peaks in January. This year is rather unusual for several cases of influenza being reported throughout the summer. By mid October, influenza season was already in full swing spreading throughout the elementary school and middle school affecting students and staff alike.
Influenza hits children under the age of 2, pregnant women, American Indians, people over 65, and those with heart or lung disease and weakened immune systems especially hard. It is estimated by the CDC that 36,000 people die every year across the United States as a result of influenza. They further estimate that 5-20% of the population will contract influenza and will result in 200,000 hospitalizations from complications due to the flu.
Influenza is transmitted by infected aerosolized droplets spread by coughing and sneezing. The incubation period after exposure averages two days. Symptoms include: sneezing, fever up to 104, dry cough, body aches, headaches, and difficulty breathing. If symptoms are recognized within two days, anti-viral medication can be prescribed to shorten the course of the disease. Otherwise, most people will experience symptoms for 7-10 days.
The best prevention for influenza is to obtain the flu vaccine. It is a killed virus so there is no chance that someone can get the flu from the vaccine. Vaccines are available from multiple health care providers in the area and Safeway Pharmacy.
If you have the flu, you should get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids, take Tylenol or ibuprofen for discomfort. You should see your health care provider if you are having any difficulty breathing or having any severe symptoms.
So, 36,000 deaths from influenza vs 1 death from Ebola(thus far). So why does Ebola have so many on the verge of panic when we have more to fear from influenza?
Be proactive and get your flu shot now. It is not too late. And always remember what you learned in kindergarten: cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands!!!