Health Alert: Flu Forecast

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WDTV) -- Time for Health Alert! Joining us tonight is Doctor mark Povroznik with "The flu report." Thanks for joining us Dr. P. So tell us, what does the flu forecast look like as we start the new year?

Question: What does the flu forecast look like as we start the New Year?

Answer: I’m going to turn up the intensity just a bit towards Public Service Announcement...

To parallel the weather, FLU has come in Roaring! I believe it will be several weeks and it will leave growling. The season thus far is a parallel to what was seen in the Southern Hemisphere.

Simply stated, the forecast is WIDESPREAD. Nearly every state in the country is experiencing High Flu cases and the “uptick” has been rapid. As the epidemic hits the United Kingdom, officials recently canceled 50,000 elective surgeries until optimal healthcare delivery conditions could improve.

It’s been a perfect storm:

-Severe hurricanes in 2017

-Cooler earlier weather, that lowers humidity and allows viruses to travel further

-The resulting predominant strain being Type A H3N2

-The vaccine having less than optimal coverage for H3N2

-All around the time when we travel, shop and place ourselves in large crowds.

So the forecast is one of concern, not panic, but clearly of concern.

Question: What should listeners be thinking?

Answer: Not just how to practice Prevention! But doing it.

How to help minimize Spread:

-Continue to get vaccinated as any protection awarded by the vaccine can hasten the severity of illness

-Practice hand hygiene and cough etiquette to minimize virus spreading in the environment

-Wipe down common surfaces at home and work

-Stay home if you have the FLU until your fever free for 24 hours without the use of medications

-Remember you can be contagious for up to 24 hours before symptoms appear.

-IMPORTANT…Minimize visiting those at risk of contracting the Flu. That means, at minimum, Hospitals and Nursing Homes. Refrain/Minimize going to large gathering places unless necessary, like shopping plazas, grocery stores, etc.

AGAIN…While we are experiencing such widespread activity, Hospitals and Nursing Home visitation should be minimized. Try calling your loved one or FaceTime.

Question: What are the CDC recommendations as far as treatment for the flu? Is timing everything when it comes to treatment?

Answer: Timely administration of antivirals

The clinical benefit is greatest when antiviral treatment is administered as early as possible after illness onset. When it comes to antivirals, sooner is better and as you approach the 48-hour mark following symptom onset, the benefit can be diminished.

The CDC is also alerting of higher risk patient populations for complications of the FLU:

-Children younger than 2 years

-Adults aged 65 years and older

-Persons with chronic lung or heart conditions

-Persons with underlying kidney or liver disease

-Diabetes, Neurologic conditions

-Individuals with a suppressed immune system, whether it is caused by a medication that is needed or the result of an underlying illness.

-Women who are pregnant or postpartum (within 2 weeks after delivery)

-People aged younger than 19 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy

-American Indians/Alaska Natives

-People with extreme obesity (i.e., body-mass index is equal to or greater than 40)

-Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities

WEB EXCLUSIVE

Question: What should people consider when a sick day is necessary?

Answer: The workplace may act as a “point of spread,” where employees can easily spread flu to their fellow employees as well as to others in the community. An important way to reduce the spread of flu is to keep sick people away from those who are not sick.

You should stay home if you are sick until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 37.8 degrees Celsius) or signs of a fever (have chills, feel very warm, has a flushed appearance, or is sweating). This should be determined without the need for fever-reducing medicines (any medicine that contains ibuprofen or acetaminophen). You should stay home until at least 24 hours after you no longer have a fever, even if you are using antiviral medicines.

If you suffer from chronic conditions as reviewed, be sure to develop a sick day plan with your medical provider, minimize delays in starting an antiviral, try to stock up on essential groceries to minimize going out and assure you have your necessary prescription medications on hand so that you do not run out.