Take steps to protect yourself from the flu

Michael Klein, News Editor

Having the influenza virus is like living a horror story. It can be so violent that it’s nauseating and sends chills to every inch of its victims’ helpless bodies. The monstrous culprit is responsible for 45 deaths in the U.S. thus far this year and many experts believe it is only beginning to hit its peak. CBS News reported this disturbing statistic and added that “9.4 percent of all U.S. deaths were caused by flu or pneumonia.”

Unfortunately, many people are ignorant of many aspects of the flu and are contributing to the virus’ spread. Both the currently afflicted and those who may soon cross its path should know the important details and precautions to follow.

There are many types of flu. All of these strands have similar, yet more severe, symptoms than the common cold. A runny nose, sore throat, 100-plus degree temperature, body aches and chills are all indicators of the flu virus. Tests can be performed by taking a sample swab from the patient’s nose. It is unnecessary, though, to see a health doctor for treatment of these symptoms. Conversely, some less common effects of the flu are signals that a physician’s care is needed.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the signs that are most worrisome and warrant an immediate doctor visit include troubled breathing, lip discoloration, chest pain, sudden dizziness, confusion, seizures and persistent vomiting. The rest of the public, suffering from typical flu-like symptoms, is encouraged to stay home, drinks clear fluids, rest and stay away from the healthy.

High-risk individuals include the elderly, infants, asthmatics and those with weak immune systems. Anyone that believes they have the flu and fall under any of these categories is an exception to the healing at home method. Doctors can treat these patients effectively if they are seen within the first few days of when symptoms begin. Antiviral medications help make the illness more tolerable and accelerate the recovery time. Additionally, tests show that they can prevent serious complications. There are currently four approved antiviral drugs available according to CDC: oseltamivir (Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), amantadine (generic), and rimantadine (Flumadine).

The already startling number of people affected by the flu may continue to rise. Anna Hoffman R.N works at the Truax campus and she believes that February will likely be the true peak of this flu season. It’s scary to think that an already destructive season could get worse. Luckily, there is an inexpensive way to decrease a person’s likelihood of becoming ill.

Whether or not you have contracted the virus doesn’t matter when it comes to flu shots. Anyone six months or older is strongly advised, by the medical community, to be immunized. The U.S. government offers these details and plenty more relevant information on the vaccines at flu.gov. Here interested people can ask questions and find immunization centers.

Needles tend to make many folks uneasy, but there is an alternative. Vaccinations can be given with a traditional shot, but patients can opt for the inactivated influenza vaccine, which is given as a nose spray. Side effects are mild and include soreness, headache and fever.

There is no guarantee that the vaccination will prevent the flu virus. Angela Danielski is a nursing program student at Madison College. She reluctantly received immunizations the past two years. Danielski said this was a requirement “due to clinical sites I was going to for the nursing program.” Otherwise, she likely wouldn’t have considered it. Although she isn’t sold on them completely she understands their importance. “The flu shot contains scientists’ best guess at what strain of the flu will be prevalent for the next year, so it isn’t always 100 percent effective in preventing people from getting sick from the flu.” Danielski learned this firsthand when she fell during the holidays last December.

Students that prefer a more convenient way to get protected have an option at school. There are many who are unaware of Truax’s student clinic. The building is separate from campus, but is easy to find out of the east side of the building.

Students of all Madison College campuses, taking degree credit courses, have access to the health care services with their valid OneCard. For only $13, eligible students can stop in during the school day and one of the friendly nurses will help. More information is available by calling (608) 441-3320.

An old saying goes you should never pass judgment on another, unless they leave the bathroom without washing their hands. Even those who decide against the vaccination should remember that regular hand washing is critical in helping prevent the spread of infectious germs. Hand sanitizers can help keep hands clean throughout the day but is not a substitute for soap and water. Be safe and sanitary flu season, or just be sick.

Currently the flu is categorized as an epidemic. If things continue to worsen, the bug can soon turn into a far reaching pandemic. Flu.gov monitors the situation weekly and provides actions the federal government is taking.