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Flu Widespread, Leading a Range of Winter's Ills

Health & Wellness  (tags: americans, children, disease, healthcare, illness, medicine, research, risks, society, treatment, warning )

- 1985 days ago -
The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years.

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Kit B (276)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 10:32 am
Image: Center for Disease Control, logo)

It is not your imagination — more people you know are sick this winter, even people who have had flu shots.

The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years. And these are all developing amid the normal winter highs for the many viruses that cause symptoms on the “colds and flu” spectrum.

Influenza is widespread, and causing local crises. On Wednesday, Boston’s mayor declared a public health emergency as cases flooded hospital emergency rooms.

Google’s national flu trend maps, which track flu-related searches, are almost solid red (for “intense activity”) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s weekly FluView maps, which track confirmed cases, are nearly solid brown (for “widespread activity”).

“Yesterday, I saw a construction worker, a big strong guy in his Carhartts who looked like he could fall off a roof without noticing it,” said Dr. Beth Zeeman, an emergency room doctor for MetroWest Medical Center in Framingham, Mass., just outside Boston. “He was in a fetal position with fever and chills, like a wet rag. When I see one of those cases, I just tighten up my mask a little.”

Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston started asking visitors with even mild cold symptoms to wear masks and to avoid maternity wards. The hospital has treated 532 confirmed influenza patients this season and admitted 167, even more than it did by this date during the 2009-10 swine flu pandemic.

At Brigham and Women’s Hospital, 100 patients were crowded into spaces licensed for 53. Beds lined halls and pressed against vending machines. Overflow patients sat on benches in the lobby wearing surgical masks.

“Today was the first time I think I was experiencing my first pandemic,” said Heidi Crim, the nursing director, who saw both the swine flu and SARS outbreaks here. Adding to the problem, she said, many staff members were at home sick and supplies like flu test swabs were running out.

Nationally, deaths and hospitalizations are still below epidemic thresholds. But experts do not expect that to remain true. Pneumonia usually shows up in national statistics only a week or two after emergency rooms report surges in cases, and deaths start rising a week or two after that, said Dr. Gregory A. Poland, a vaccine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The predominant flu strain circulating is an H3N2, which typically kills more people than the H1N1 strains that usually predominate; the relatively lethal 2003-4 “Fujian flu” season was overwhelmingly H3N2.

No cases have been resistant to Tamiflu, which can ease symptoms if taken within 48 hours, and this year’s flu shot is well-matched to the H3N2 strain, the C.D.C. said. Flu shots are imperfect, especially in the elderly, whose immune systems may not be strong enough to produce enough antibodies.

Simultaneously, the country is seeing a large and early outbreak of norovirus, the “cruise ship flu” or “stomach flu,” said Dr. Aron J. Hall of the C.D.C.’s viral gastroenterology branch. It includes a new strain, which first appeared in Australia and is known as the Sydney 2012 variant.

This week, Maine’s health department said that state was seeing a large spike in cases. Cities across Canada reported norovirus outbreaks so serious that hospitals were shutting down whole wards for disinfection because patients were getting infected after moving into the rooms of those who had just recovered. The classic symptoms of norovirus are “explosive” diarrhea and “projectile” vomiting, which can send infectious particles flying yards away.

“I also saw a woman I’m sure had norovirus,” Dr. Zeeman said. “She said she’d gone to the bathroom 14 times at home and 4 times since she came into the E.R. You can get dehydrated really quickly that way.”

This month, the C.D.C. said the United States was having its biggest outbreak of pertussis in 60 years; there were about 42,000 confirmed cases, the highest total since 1955. The disease is unrelated to flu but causes a hacking, constant cough and breathlessness. While it is unpleasant, adults almost always survive; the greatest danger is to infants, especially premature ones with undeveloped lungs. Of the 18 recorded deaths in 2012, all but three were of infants under age 1.

That outbreak is worst in cold-weather states, including Colorado, Washington, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Vermont.

Although most children are vaccinated several times against pertussis, those shots wear off with age. It is possible, the authorities said, that a new, safer vaccine introduced in the 1990s gives protection that does not last as long, so more teenagers and adults are vulnerable.

And, Dr. Poland said, if many New Yorkers are catching laryngitis, as has been reported, it is probably a rhinovirus. “It’s typically a sore, really scratchy throat, and you sometimes lose your voice,” he said.

Though flu cases in New York City are rising rapidly, the city health department has no plans to declare an emergency, largely because of concern that doing so would drive mildly sick people to emergency rooms, said Dr. Jay K. Varma, deputy director for disease control. The city would prefer people went to private doctors or, if still healthy, to pharmacies for flu shots. Nursing homes have had worrisome outbreaks, he said, and nine elderly patients have died. Homes need to be more alert, vaccinate patients, separate those who fall ill and treat them faster with antivirals, he said.

Dr. Susan I. Gerber of the C.D.C.’s respiratory diseases branch, said her agency has not seen any unusual spike of rhinovirus, parainfluenza, adenovirus, coronavirus or the dozens of other causes of the “common cold,” but the country is having its typical winter surge of some, like respiratory syncytial virus “that can mimic flulike symptoms, especially in young children.”

The C.D.C. and the local health authorities continue to advocate getting flu shots. Although it takes up to two weeks to build immunity, “we don’t know if the season has peaked yet,” said Dr. Joseph Bresee, chief of prevention in the agency’s flu division.

Flu shots and nasal mists contain vaccines against three strains, the H3N2, the H1N1 and a B. Thus far this season, Dr. Bresee said, H1N1 cases have been rare, and the H3N2 component has been a good match against almost all the confirmed H3N2 samples the agency has tested.

About a fifth of all flus this year thus far are from B strains. That part of the vaccine is a good match only 70 percent of the time, because two B’s are circulating.

For that reason, he said, flu shots are being reformulated. Within two years, they said, most will contain vaccines against both B strains.

Joanna Constantine, 28, a stylist at the Guy Thomas Hair Salon on West 56th Street in Manhattan, said she recently was so sick that she was off work and in bed for five days — and silenced by laryngitis for four of them.

She did not have the classic flu symptoms — a high fever, aches and chills — so she knew it was probably something else.

Still, she said, it scared her enough that she will get a flu shot next year. She had not bothered to get one since her last pregnancy, she said. But she has a 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old daughter, “and my little guys get theirs every year.”
***Many links within body of article at VISIT SITE*****

By DONALD G. McNEIL Jr. and KATHARINE Q. SEELYE | The New York Times |
Jess Bidgood contributed reporting.

David C (129)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 10:34 am
get your flu shot......please, not perfect, but prevention is a lot better than illness and treatment.....2 teens have died in MN and thats 2 too many.....

Past Member (0)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 4:50 pm

Kit B (276)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 5:28 pm

I have a long time friend, probably for a longer time than some have been around. Her brother decided he didn't need no stinkin' flu shot and didn't need no stinkin' pneumonia shot either. He spent the last two weeks in ICU with flu complicated by pneumonia. It seems that for some the flu shot has helped while others are getting this strain any way, about 30%. If you are over 60 your chances for getting this increase, and of course the older you are the more risk you have for pneumonia.

Richelle Rausch (43)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 6:22 pm
I get the flu every year, whether I got the flu shot or not. I haven't gotten a flu shot in several years. But I promised my mom I would get one. Better do it so she doesn't yell at me again!

Jim Phillips (3257)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 6:43 pm
"The country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years. And these are all developing amid the normal winter highs for the many viruses that cause symptoms on the “colds and flu” spectrum."

I think these "strains" are the work of the big pharma companies to make MONEY off of the sick people and scare the rest into buying, purchasing the "vaccines" against not catching the flu, the whooping cough nor the new strains, against three strains, the H3N2, the H1N1 and a B.

Just my opinion is all.

Ty, Kit.

Laurie H (817)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 6:56 pm
What is happening is alarming any way we look at this. There's been so much controversy about immunizations, it can confuse the heck out us, yet I am at very high risk if I should need antibiotics ever. Thanks Kit for posting all of this so much!!~

Michael Carney (217)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 7:27 pm
Can't wait to see the headlines on Fox News saying this Flu, is a Liberal plot, against Conservatives, and Tea Party Republicans...I can see the little ticker at the bottom of the screen saying it

Carrie B (306)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 8:27 pm
I always get the flu shot. Only once have I contracted the virus even after getting the shot. That was in 1996. I thought I was going to die. I spent Thanksgiving day in the ER because I decided it would be cheaper than a funeral.

Kit B (276)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 9:06 pm

I dunno Carrie - funeral - ER, not much difference in price about 15 grand either way. I for one am glad you made the choice of the ER.

I went to the ER for a very bad migraine almost a year ago. The few hours I was there, and it was a few hours because they couldn't bother reading the medical information I always have with me, cost nearly $5,000. The migraine was very painful, the bill was equally painful.

Heidi Aubrey (16)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 9:29 pm
I wrote a pretty simple to understand but accurate article/comment(long) about how the immune system works with special regards to HIV and the flu if anyone cares to be interested enough to look. Its to long to repeat again.

Its in the Healthy Living:Food: Dr. Greger article/video about how the immune system attacks the body in MS afflicted folks.

Bottom line was get your flu shot.

Ask the person administering it if there is Thimesol in it(almost all today don't), if she doesn't know tell her to look on the box under ingredients.

If it has it, go elsewhere if not get it and stay away from people as much as possible for the next 2 weeks.

It takes 2 weeks for the immune system to build up its army of antibodies against this flu.

And yes, this shot will protect you from this specific flu virus(and several other lesser ones).

Though be aware, it doesn't cover all flues everywhere.

If it has it

Billie C (2)
Thursday January 10, 2013, 10:13 pm
always get my flu shot. also use lot of hand sanitizer when out in public.

Cynthia Davis (340)
Friday January 11, 2013, 3:20 am
Got the flu 1 week before Christmas and I'm just now getting back to normal. Thought I would die, I was so sick. Everyone in my house was sick all at the same time. My husband and me, 2 sons, 1 granddaughter all sick at one was not pretty.

Daniel Partlow (179)
Friday January 11, 2013, 7:34 am
Perhaps I should get a flu shot after all!

Chrissie H (23)
Friday January 11, 2013, 11:45 am
Get a flu jab,even if you have to pay for it Life is precious and.prevention is always better than cure.

Nancy M (169)
Friday January 11, 2013, 1:04 pm
Thanks Kit. I have not had a flu shot yet this season. Maybe I should after all.

If you have the vaccination and get the flu anyway, it should be a milder case. That did happen to me one year.

And yes- always wash you hands, wash your hands, wash yours hands.

Kit B (276)
Friday January 11, 2013, 3:48 pm

Get the flu shot and just in case no one mentioned it - wash your hands, and wash your hands. (Thanks Nancy)

I have a dear friend who wants to protect her immune system by not getting the flu vaccine, she too is now in ICU, it's not worth the risk. And yes, many are getting a mild case of this flu even with the injections but a much milder case than those causing the ERs in many cities to shut down because they just can not handle the number of people coming in with flu symptoms. Coughing, fever, nausea, headaches, body aches, just a few of the symptoms.

Wash you hands, wash your hands. - even if Big Pharma is making some money, get the shot. A ounce of prevention...

Cynthia Davis (340)
Friday January 11, 2013, 5:53 pm
Take Kit's advice get that flu do not want this flu, it does not want to let you go once it has you. I am still coughing some at night, but feel much better.

Kit B (276)
Friday January 11, 2013, 6:00 pm

Sending you best wishes to feel better soon Cynthia.

Ness F (211)
Friday January 11, 2013, 10:59 pm
Thanks Kit, just got back from travelling for a month around Canada and the USA. Beginning of week 3, both hubby and I got sick with a horrible flu with a dry raspy cough, swollen sore throat and disgusting mucous, aches and chills ( sorry to be graphic ) yet we are still trying to shake it 3 weeks on back here in Australia. I too don't like supporting the big P's yet I wouldn't wish this flu on anyone, half the plane travelling home were coughing etc also. Get the flu shot ..seriously a month down the track and just starting to slowly bounce back...

Susanne R (235)
Friday January 11, 2013, 11:01 pm
Some people simply won't accept the fact that the flu can be deadly, while others are suspicious of any type of vaccine. I've had a flu shot every year for the past 12 years or so because of an awful experience I had. I contracted the flu and had all the typical symptoms for about four days --and then things really began to go downhill. I developed secondary bacterial infections, which included bronchitis, pleurisy, and, by the time I sought medical help, pneumonia. Because of the pleurisy, every breath I took caused stabbing pains in my chest. Fortunately, a 10-day course of antibiotics cleared up the infections, but I had laryngitis and fatigue for some time.

My advice: get the shot if you can.

paul m (93)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 5:14 am


Ro H (0)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:24 am

Theodore Shayne (56)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 9:41 am
I refuse to get a flu shot or take antibiotics. I never have and never will which is why I have such a strong immune system. All this one did was make me tired and gave me a voracious appetite.

Kathleen R (138)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 12:47 pm
read & noted

kathleen benbow (3)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:14 pm
As a pediatric nurse I read this story and have to say: Wash your hands, wash your hands, and wash your hands! Use hand sanitizer. Get enough sleep. You have to take care of yourself if you're going to take care of anyone else. Thank you.

karen n (57)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:46 pm
carry hand sanitizer where ever you go,wipe down shopping cart handles with disinfectant clothes if provided,avoid going places with close courters,i have avoided movie theaters,even eating out,im bored but am hopeing to stay well. Dont touch your face. I just recently got a flu shot,my two weeks isnt up yet for its full affect,so i am being extra careful of course i live in a home with 3 adults and two school age children,so if no one gets the flu-it will be a miracle :(

Kit B (276)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:52 pm

Last night in Dallas young boy 7 years old died from this flu. His mother took him to the doctor and he was given a prescription for Tamiflu. He showed no improvement and the mother took him to Children's, they told her to take him back to the doctor in the morning. He didn't make it that long.

Please take care of yourselves and your loved ones....and wash your hands, wash your hands. If there are still places that have the vaccine - get the shot.
Not everyone is as lucky as John, some will get sick.

Ness and Susanne - I hope you both are doing better. I am going back to bed, my body aches and I have a low grade fever - probably just rapid weather change.

Kit B (276)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 6:59 pm

Oops! As lucky as Theodore - sorry got the owls confused.

Christine Stewart (134)
Saturday January 12, 2013, 7:38 pm
Black elderberry syrup! Doesn't prevent a cold or the flu, but I swear it shortens duration and severity. Try this strange tip, too. Keep some clean q-tips in your pocket- no excuse to rub your eyes or itch your nose with your hands- use the q-tip to quell that itch and discard- keep germs away from your eyes and nose that way!

Ancil S (175)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 12:32 am
I refuse the flu shot.They use mercury as a preservative.

Nola g (5)
Sunday January 13, 2013, 5:30 am
OMG Kit B. I'm from canada. That is shocking how much you paid for an er visit.
When travelling in the states, blows my mind when I meet people and they tell me how much they pay for medical care.
The flu is rampant in my small northern town. Its been a bad year for the flu here in canada too. My hands are chapped from all the washing.
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