While the latest deadly flu epidemic appears to have already peaked, the public is in need of information that will help stave off another epidemic this season, says a doctor from California.
Board-certified internist Michael Tehrani, M.D. of Brand New Day, said the current strain, H3N2, is responsible for many of the deaths and hospitalizations of recent weeks. The Center For Disease Control says that another strain, H1N1, has been reported in many states and Tehrani says it could wreak even further havoc.
“Much of the devastation caused by the flu this year could have been avoided had people had their annual flu shot though it is important to note that flu vaccines only protect against those strains that research suggests will be most common,” said Tehrani. “Since all strains can’t be covered, those who have had a flu shot may, indeed, catch the flu because that particular strain was not covered, so it’s critical that we take every precaution available to us.”
Steps you can take to avoid the flu:
Getting an annual flu vaccine is the single most important step in protecting against the flu and that’s for everyone 6 months or older. Know that the body takes about two weeks to produce a full immune response.
Children, the elderly and those with chronic diseases are particularly vulnerable to catching the flu. If they aren’t drinking liquids or eating adequately, having trouble breathing or feeling short of breath, wheezing or experiencing high fevers or ones lasting 3 or more days, they should seek immediate medical attention.
If symptoms are improving then suddenly get worse, visit the doctor right away as this could be a sign of a secondary bacterial infection. (side note, if symptoms have subsided or resolved, chances of getting secondary flu is small because you are no longer immunocompromised).
Antiviral drugs like Tamiflu can ease symptoms and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. For those with high-risk factors, taking an antiviral drug can mean the difference between a mild illness and one that could land you in the hospital.
Since the flu virus can easily be spread via air or through touching, it is important that you wash your hands with soap and warm water or alcohol-based hand-rub throughout the day. Also, stay away from those with the flu, wear a mask in public areas with little ventilation (e.g., airplanes, small offices, etc.), and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
“Brand New Day patients who have already recovered from the flu are still visiting our offices due to a persistent cough and fatigue,” said Tehrani. “Unfortunately, that’s the residue effect of the flu that sometimes can last as long as 3 months. Consider taking lozenges, OTC cough medicine or, in severe cases, your doctor can offer prescription strength cough medicine.”
Brand New Day is the Medicare product name of Universal Care, Inc., a privately held California Knox-Keene Healthcare Service Plan licensed by the California Department of Managed Health Care and contracted with the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services as a Medicare Advantage contractor. Universal Care, Inc. is owned and operated by an experienced group of managed care executives and physicians. The Davis family founded Universal Care, Inc. in 1983. For more information, visit BNDHMO.com
Dr. Tehrani is an Internal Medicine Primary Care Provider for Brand New Day. He specializes in primary care with heavy focus on preventative care and close patient/doctor relationships.