“Indiana reports first flu death of 2014-15 season”
“L.A. County’s First Flu Death of Season Reported”
“Flu causes 3 pediatric deaths in Tennessee”
“Minnesota sees 3rd pediatric flu death of the season”
“Blue Springs woman dies from flu at age 37”
“Eight people have died in North Carolina from the flu so far this season”
Fifteen children nationwide have died of influenza since the flu season began. The number of people being hospitalized is also on the rise, with those age 65 and older especially at risk.
Twenty-nine states have reported widespread cases of the flu. Outbreaks have been reported in every region of the country with the hardest hit states in the South, Midwest, and West. With nearly 90% of cases reported as the H3N2 subtype, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has officially declare the illness an epidemic and reports it’s expected to get even worse in the coming weeks.
Medical professionals are saying this year’s strain of flu is especially dangerous because it is not well-matched to what was predicted; the current vaccine will probably be about a third less effective than normal. The H3 subtype can quickly become life-threatening particularly for children, the elderly and anyone with a compromised immune system. Even in a healthy child, the virus can enter the blood stream and then the brain, creating severe respiratory symptoms, including shortness of breath and a very high fever. If they become septic with a bacterial bloodstream infection, all their organs will shut down.
So what can you do to minimize your risk of the flu this year?
• Get the flu shot. The vaccine is typically effective at reducing the flu by about 60%. When there is a mismatch like this year, the effectiveness goes down to about 40%, which is still better than none.
• Wash your hands frequently
• Cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze.
• Stay home when you are sick.
Do you know the symptoms?
• A 100 degree or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
• A cough and/or sore throat.
• A runny or stuffy nose.
• Headaches and/or body aches.
• Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
What can you do?
Fluids and rest are recommended. Drinking lots of water, juice or clear broth can help replace fluids lost during a fever. Getting more sleep boosts your immune system to better fight infection.
Antibiotics typically won’t help because the flu is a virus. Doctors may sometimes prescribe antiviral drugs for certain high-risk flu patients, which may shorten the illness and help prevent serious complications.
When should I seek emergency medical attention?
Seek medical attention immediately if you are at high risk – children under the age of two, pregnant women, adults over 65, and anyone with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or chronic respiratory disease.
Or if you have:
• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
• Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
• Sudden dizziness
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.