Don’t Forget The Flu

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Now that we are in the middle of flu season, I thought it would be a good time to discuss the flu. A few months ago, I discussed flu vaccines, so I won’t repeat myself on that subject. This year’s flu season is expected to be much less severe than normal due to all the precautions that we are taking because of the coronavirus. Remember that the seasonal flu usually causes between 25,000 and 50,000 deaths a year, and most of these deaths occur in people who are at high risk for complications from the flu. Those at high risk from the flu are also at high risk for complications from the coronavirus. Let’s look at who is at risk from these infections.

Age groups – children younger than 5 year, especially those younger than 2 years and adults aged 65 years and older

Chronic medical conditions – asthma, neurologic and neurodevelopmental conditions, blood disorders (i.e., sickle cell disease), chronic lung disease (COPD, cystic fibrosis), diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, liver disorders, obese persons with a BMI over 40, people with weakened immune systems (HIV or AIDS, cancers like leukemia) or medications or treatments (cancer chemotherapy or radiation, persons on chronic steroid treatment or other treatments that suppress the immune system), and people who have had a stroke.

Other groups – pregnant women and women up to two weeks post-delivery, people who live in nursing homes or other care facilities.

Racial and ethnic groups – people from certain racial and ethnic groups are at increased risk for hospitalization from the flu and include non-Hispanic Black persons, Hispanic or Latino persons, American Indians, and native Alaskans.

Fever in response to an infection occurs because it is the body’s natural defense system to fight infections. Chills, like vigorous exercise, cause muscles to rapidly contract, creating heat, thereby raising the body’s temperature. Heat kills the invading organism or virus. Once the body temperature reaches a certain point, sweating begins. Sweating cools the skin as the sweat evaporates, thereby lowering the body temperature. Cycles of chills and sweats are normal in infections, but do not always occur, especially in older individuals or those with compromised immune systems. If respiratory symptoms occur during flu season, even if fever is not present, the patient’s primary care provider should be contacted, especially if the patient is in a high-risk category.

Antiviral medications can reduce flu symptoms, especially if they are begun withing two days of the onset of symptoms. These medications include Tamiflu (oseltamivir), Xofluza (baloxivir marboxil), Relenza (zanamivir), and Repivab (peramivir). If you haven’t already done so, get a flu vaccine now. Pregnant women should be vaccinated, regardless of their trimester. If you are in a high-risk category, especially if you got your vaccine last August or September, ask your doctor about getting a second dose because immunity from flu vaccination lasts only about 6 months.

For more information, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a helpful website. Try:

www.cdc.gov/flu/about/index.html , www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/vaccinations.htm , and www.cdc.gov/flu/treatment/index.html

Questions and comments may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 By Peter Galvin, MD

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