DENVER (KCNC) – You would think that now that we’ve hit March, we should be winding down, and off the hook for flu.
Ah, maybe we all ought to think again on that one.
The CDC says the milder strain of influenza that had been nailing people from just after Thanksgiving through early February is now being replaced by a stronger, nastier strain. It’s one that makes people a lot sicker than the previous circulating bug.
The report from the CDC came out within the past few days, but I think those of us who work in emergency rooms, clinics, or offices have noticed something a little unusual over since mid-February. That is, people who were down for the count with fever, chills, coughing… and just a general position of being laid out on the stretcher or exam table when we went into examine them. Sicker than what we were used to.
And these folks were generally lighting up with a positive Influenza A test.
Now here’s where I’m going with this one— the earlier germ was an Influenza A strain—an H1N1.
And so is this new guy. It’s an “A” and is classified as an H3N2.
The problem is our general testing can’t tell the difference between the two. It can usually only say it’s an “A” or a flu “B”. Yet our patients were toxically sicker, many with pneumonia or dehydration, as well as a sky-high fever that just wouldn’t quit. We are talking easily 103-104 readings here.
The number of people who can’t crawl out of bed has jumped, as has the number of people we have admitted to the hospital. And the story of “onset” is universal: “I was feeling okay one minute, and then like I got hit by a truck the next”.
The main complications: pneumonia, out-of-control diabetes, uncontrolled asthma, heart attacks, and stroke (from the tremendous strain these diseases put on the body).
Now, things get worse.
This year’s flu season, which we were hoping would be mild and be drawing to a close early is now a shown a new, ugly face. It’s worse, and it’s going to be here for a while. The CDC is estimating we will now be dealing with this one until May. And at highest risk are young kids, even though all age groups are susceptible.
In fact, anyone born after 2001 has little or now immunity to this strain or variants of it.
Now the good news: IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR A FLU SHOT!
Even if the vaccine is not 100% effective at prevention, it will lessen the severity and length of illness.
The people I’ve seen with this new strain who have been immunized are less sick as a general rule.
So be on the lookout. Take care of yourself. Get your rest. Eat well. Don’t booze it up. And get vaccinated if you haven’t rolled up your sleeve yet this season. Please take care, and remember it’s not too late.