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Sunday, March 4, 2018

EVERYTHING YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT THE FLU, AND MORE

The infectious disease caused by an influenza virus is abbreviated to the flu.  There is scant mention in The Bible about influenza.  Maybe, though, Jesus did cure Peter's mother in law with the flu of high fever, for Hippocrates in 424 BC describes what appeared to be human influenza.  (Painting is by John Bridges.)  Remember, he is referred to as the Father of Medicine and all doctors today swear some form of the Hippocratic Oath.

It is possible that the flu was responsible for the decimation of virtually the entire indigenous population of Antilles in 1493 soon after the arrival of Christopher Columbus.
  • The first, and only, serious pandemic was the 1918 H1N1 flu, also known as the Spanish Flu (note:  end of World War I):
    • where up to 20% died (considering that the usual mortality rate is 0.1%--which means the patient today has 1 chance in a thousand of dying)
    • 20 million to 100 million worldwide (data was poor) lives lost worldwide
  • Asian Flu (H2N2), 1957-58, up to 1.5 million deaths
  • Hong Kong Flu (H3N3), 1968-69, up to 1 million deaths
  • Swine Flu (mostly H1N1), 2009, up to 400,000 deaths
  • In an average year there are 3-5 million cases and 250,000 to 500,000 deaths
  • Traffic accidents cause 1.5 million fatalities/year
  • HIV/AIDS has killed 25 million in 25 years, or 1 million/year
  • Note that heart disease and cancer ailments, though, dominate as the leading causes of death:

As much as you can get lost in the H1N1's and H2N3's, these letters/numbers only apply to influenzavirus A.  These come from birds mostly, but also swines.  There is an emerging bird flu, H5N1, which has killed millions of poultry around the world.  The mortality rate for humans afflicted with this form is 60%.  Avian influenza H7N9 appeared in humans five years ago in China, and is being closely watched, because it is deemed an unusually dangerous virus with a 30% death rate for which there is no vaccine.  

There are three other types of these viruses:  B, C and D.  You mostly get immune to B at an early age, C only causes mild symptoms in children, except there was that one swine flu case of 2009, and D has only to do with cattle.

Donald Trump will no doubt soon bring up the irresponsibility of China for spreading pandemics.  In 2009 I published in The Huffington Post:


To quote myself:

Swine flu, though, conjures dark images of your mortality. The communications industry, like CNN, saturates air time on such issues because they know people will watch. The WWW picks it up and decision-makers are hopelessly influenced. The cascading circle of information gains a life of its own.  The truth is that the truly dangerous virus is not the swine flu, but the medium itself. The pandemic is this resultant overreaction.

  • Take your annual flu vaccine by October!  I did.  Did not work for me, as it is only 17% effective against the H3N2 strain (much less, actually, for those older than 65), which I probably have.  
  • From the time you get first exposed to the flu virus, you can get sick the next day, or up to four days later.
  • Your period of contagion begins ONE DAY BEFORE you get sick and could end 5 TO 7 DAYS AFTER you are ill, and with some viruses, even longer.  To be realistic, for most, count your first day of illness as Day 1, and on Day 8, you should no longer be contagious.
  • If you get ill, get well.  Take care of yourself to avoid complications:  pneumonia, ear infections, congestive heart failure, asthma and diabetes.  Can you believe you can get diabetes from the flu?
  • Can you drink alcohol during your illness period?  During that 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic, doctors prescribed shots of whiskey, half a bottle wine/day and a glass of port after a very hot bath.  But this is exactly a century later.  Today?  The lastest info seems to favor some red wine, for this potion has flavonoids to boost immune response.
  • Should you take Tamiflu if you have the flu?  My co-pay is $5, and was prescribed by the doctor, so I do.  If you need to spend $138 for a five-day dosage, probably not worth reducing your flu-illness period by one day, which seems now to be all it does, with some serious enough side-effects to be concerned about:
      • Insomnia
      • Stomach pains
      • Dizziness
      • Diarrhea
      • Seizures
      • Sudden confusion
      • Delirium
      • Hallucinations
      • Unusual behavior
      • Self-injury
Worse for me, Tamiflu supposedly does not work well if you're over 65.  However, that possible one-day reduction in illness is sufficient to somewhat help reduce epidemics in seniors' facilities, as minimal as this might be.  Anything to prevent pneumonia is good enough for me.  

Oh, one more negative, note in the photo the instruction on how to get to the Tamiflu gel-cap.  Well, you can lose a fingernail attempting their recommendation.  I finally used a pair of scissors.

In closing, here is something really interesting.  If you've been following my allegiance to Advil, I just noticed today that the ten caplet bottle I was given three years ago to cure my flu then expired in August of 2015.  I thought that bottle looked awfully old.  It has been rolling in my mind that this form of Advil might "only" work if the pill is really old.  There might be something to maturation.  I will thus immediately purchase a similar bottle and hope I won't need to use the pills until 2028.  Only $2.79 for ten tablets from Walgreens, and they deliver to 15 Craigside.  I wonder if I still will be charged a co-pay of $5.

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