The 2013 flu season is forecasted to be a particularly harsh one due to the aggressive flu strain designated as H3N2 that is sweeping the nation and causing many to become hospitalized due to the symptoms. In a studyconducted by the CDC, on average, more than 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized each year for respiratory and heart conditions illnesses associated with seasonal influenza virus infections. Further, considering the peak of the flu season occuring around February or March this year, we are likely to see a drastic increase of flu victims as this relentless flu continues to wreak havoc.
Flu Strain Causing Widespread Hospitalization
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that this flu season is on target for being one of the worst seasons on record. With 41 states effected so far, the H3N2 strain has hospitalized over 2,2oo people nationally. Some hospitals are so overwhelmed by the influx of flu patients, they are on bypass and sending sick patients to other hospitals in the area for treatment. Many medical centers and hospitals are beginning to think preemptively and working on ways to prevent the spread of this bug in medical facilities. In Allentown, PA medical centers are operating an outbreak flu triage tent in hopes to prevent the spreading of this aggressive flu in the hospitals. “If we can remove them from the main ED and put them in environment where everyone is masked and everyone can be protected, it’s safer for them and certainly safer for the staff,” said Terry Burger, hospital director of infection control in Allentown, PA.
Prevention is Key
H3N2 can spread to humans from infected pigs, and in some cases, H3N2 also has spread between people. This happens in the same way that seasonal flu viruses spread—through close contact with sick people who may spread their infections through coughs or sneezes. Luckily, since there has been limited virus transmission from person-to-person, it is considered less contagious among people than the seasonal flu. Practicing preventive actions can help reduce the risk of becoming infected with or spreading influenza viruses. If you work around swine, practice extreme prevention methods.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. (Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.)
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. If soap and water are not available, an alcohol-based hand rub may be used. Click here for a homemade hand sanitizer recipe.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick, stay home from work or school until your illness is over.
Segregating oneself or family members who are ill, like the hospitals are doing could be an excellent way of keeping the illness contained in the home. Creating a sick room that is well stocked will limit exposure to this flu strain.
Although flu epidemics occur annually, this flu strain in particular is similar to the H1N1 pandemic virus that was first detected in July 2011.
Common Symptoms of the H3N2:
- sore throat
- runny or stuffy nose
- body aches
- sometimes diarrhea and vomiting
*It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
Emergency Warning Signs
If you become ill and symptoms exacerbate, you may want to think about seeking medical attention. The CDC recommends antiviral medications for certain patients who are sick, including those hospitalized and seriously ill. Antiviral treatment also is recommended for people who may have the flu and are at high risk for flu-related complications. That includes young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Some emergency warning signs are:
- Fast breathing or trouble breathing
- Bluish skin color
- Not drinking enough fluids
- Not waking up or not interacting
- Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
- Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
- Fever with a rash
- In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
- Being unable to eat
- Has trouble breathing
- Has no tears when crying
- Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- 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
According to www.Flu.Gov, the 2012-2013 seasonal flu vaccine is not designed to protect against H3N2, so you can still get the flu even if you had a vaccination. That said, there are natural ways that you can beat the flu simply by taking better care of yourself.
Take your vitamins – especially vitamins known to increase your immune system such as A , B, C, D, and E.
Ensure that you are eating healthy. Putting the right food in your body helps it work more efficiently and fight off any illnesses.
Drink lots of water. Most of us typically stay dehydrated because we fail to drink enough water. Water helps to filter the impurities out of your body. Over time, this keeps your body functioning and in optimum health.
Get plenty of sleep. If your body does not get the needed amount of sleep each night, your health depreciates. Get a minimum of 7-8 hours per night.
Don’t push yourself. Don’t force yourself to go to work, don’t push yourself to finish a project. If you feel you are coming down with something, listen to your body and slow down.
Exercise. Staying active 3-5 days a week for 20-30 minutes has been shown to not only help you stay healthy, but also increases your resistance to illness and helps you reduce stress all at the same time.
Take time and care for yourself this year. If you do find yourself coming down with the flu, the last thing you want to do is bundle up and go the pharmacy. You might be surprised to discover that your kitchen cupboards may hold the key to curing your stuffy nose, scratchy throat, cough and chills. Click here to learn more natural ways to care for yourself while sick. Be safe this flu season and practice prevention and ensure that you are staying healthy. Hopefully, this nasty flu strain will slow down.
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Contributed by Tess Pennington of Ready Nutrition.