The annual flu season typically is at its peak around late December through early February. The cold weather that normally accompanies those months is often blamed for the increase in cold and flu cases, and while cold weather can reduce a person's resistance, it is not the only variable that causes people to get sick. Spending more time indoors, both at home and in stores and malls, comes into play because viruses and germs spread more readily where there are higher concentrations of people. Other contributing factors include the humidity that helps keep viruses and germs alive. The fewer number of daylight hours may also have play a role as sunlight helps keep people healthy and it also has the effect of killing viruses and germs that would otherwise survive on the various surfaces that we touch.
The 2013-14 flu season got off to a slow start with a below average number of cases starting in October. However, we are now seeing a dramatic increase in the numbers, with some health officials hinting at another pandemic similar to the one that occurred in 2009. Also of interest is the fact that the vaccination for this season contains four instead of the more common three virus components, including one that is a derivative of the highly virulent flu of 2009. In short, there are four instead of just three flu strains affecting the population this year, one of which is of particular concern because of its severity and virulence. One other trend we are seeing during this flu season is that many patients are ending up with bronchial infections and pneumonia, both of which present greater health dangers and require more intensive medical interventions.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between the flu and the common cold. Both forms of these illnesses can range in intensity from mild to severe. For sure, when the symptoms do not subside relatively quickly, no more than a week or so, then it might be wise to see a physician, especially if breathing becomes impaired, there is the coughing of any blood, or if excessively high fever persists.
The best cure for the flu is to not get it in the first place. Viruses are transmitted through many ways, including handshakes, touching an object that has recently been handled by an infected person, and even walking through the mist of a person's recent sneeze can lead to contracting the illness. Washing hands frequently is important, keep hands away from the nose, ears and mouth, eat well and get plenty of rest to keep your body's defenses as strong as possible.
The government strongly encourages flu vaccinations. I, along with most of our city employees, get our flu shots every year. But be aware that there is a school of thought suggesting that vaccinations are unhealthy and not recommended. This is a subject that should be researched if you potentially share these vaccination concerns. There is a wealth of information about flu shots on the Internet, including the pros and cons of receiving them, the possible adverse reactions to them and why some people avoid them. In any event, it is always wise to research these kinds of subjects to ensure that you are well-informed and therefore are able to make the best health-related decisions for yourselves and family members.