The Flu is No Fluke
The following is an opinion-editorial piece by Dr. Jay Schukman, MD, chief medical director, Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield in Virginia
If you’re like thousands of Americans who’ve experienced flu-like symptoms recently, you know it’s no party – certainly not the kind enjoyed by celebrities at the annual Golden Globes awards on Sunday. But an icon’s absence was noted when George Clooney announced that Meryl Streep was under the weather and couldn’t attend the event.
When it comes to the flu – or the seasonal influenza virus – even the best actors have difficulty masking the typical aches and chills often associated with the flu. That’s where heeding good information comes into play.
The smart and dedicated folks at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are seasoned in monitoring the flu in its various strains and tracking how it behaves, year over year. With so much now being reported, it’s also important to note the difference between hype and hysteria. Observe the first and don’t give in to the latter.
The flu is no fluke – it’s a matter of science in which biology and chemistry rise and converge. A person’s biology, what they’re predisposed to, for instance, along with age and state of health, factor greatly, as do the chemical qualities of a vaccine, when it’s administered and its ability to be effective in a particular individual.
While we strive toward a total-population approach to health, we must be nimble to the needs and particular presenting characteristics of every person. That’s precisely what your health care professionals are there for, to help your family get the care you need while seeing the big picture at the same time. It’s the best direction for ensuring the most people rebound and feel better soon.
In short, there is no fool-proof script for preventing, treating or overcoming the flu, but there are things you can do to minimize its consequences and chance of spreading. Your actions and the role you play as informed health care consumers impacts your community and its overall health.
• Do get a flu vaccine, if you haven’t already. It’s not too late – especially if you are over 65 or the caregiver of someone who meets this description or a young child over the age of six months.
• If you are pregnant, you should get the flu vaccine, not the nasal spray. And if you have flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider as soon as possible.
• Don’t go into the office or send a child to school if flu-like symptoms appear. Stay home, or keep sick children at home. Be vigilant in washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and using hand sanitizer.
• The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
While these tips may seem ubiquitous, that’s precisely the point. We are better equipped the more we know. And the more we know, the more we share and the more we act responsibly to fight the flu, the better poised we’ll be to take part in the “after party” of good health.
For the most updated information on the flu please, check out the flu.gov and the CDC websites: