House Call: Flu Activity

The CDC estimates that so far this season there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses, 55,000 hospitalizations, and 2,900 deaths from the flu. Joining us for this week's House Call for more information concerning flu activity this season is Dr. Mark Povroznik, Vice President of Quality at UHC.

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1. What is the current forecast of the Flu?

· As we reported previously, the rate of widespread flu activity from the south toward the north…as we entered the holiday seasons, brought widespread flu to the mountain state.

· WV has been in widespread activity for a few weeks now.

· So far this season, we are approaching 10M cases of the flu, more than 50,000 hospitalizations, and the flu has claimed more than 4,800 lives. These numbers change every week.

· Pediatric deaths have already doubled that of the 2018-19 season from 16 to 32.

· Likewise, on our back door (Pittsburgh) has more flu cases than any city in Pennsylvania.

· While the incidence is high in our area, we have not experienced significant hospitalizations across WVUMedicine facilities.

2. How is this comparing to prior Flu seasons?

· At present, I would say the season is tracking to that of 2 years ago, one of the deadliest seasons we had in a decade.

· The numbers are also trending to out-run last year, which was the longest season in a decade.

· What makes the Flu season unpredictable is that it is somewhat unpredictable.

· We have seen a shift from the typical season of Flu A, to predominately Flu B…that hasn’t occurred since the 1992-93 season.

· With the shift to Flu B brings heightened concern for Children.

o They tend to have more symptoms/complications with Flu B than adults and a higher incidence of pneumonia, ear infections, risk for myocarditis and myositis. So even when they look like they are starting to get better, symptoms can shift and take a scarier turn.

· Best estimates, this flu season is likely to continue for a while and we need to continue practicing prevention.

3. What is the CDC saying are some methods to protect yourself against the Flu?

· The flu shot still being the first line of protection, and it’s not too late to get vaccinated.

· Observe for signs and symptoms…fever, cough, sore throat, headache, muscle aches…and in children, they can have abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

· There are 4 FDA approved antivirals, but the key is to take them within 48 hours of symptom onset for their best benefits.

o Screen Shot: Flu Medications include Tamiflu, Relenza, Rapivab, Xofluza.

· These medications can lesson symptoms, hospitalizations, and risk for death.

· The standard prevention strategies should continue with diligence:

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

o Wipe down common surfaces at home and work

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

o Minimize visiting those at risk of contracting the Flu. Remember you can be contagious for up to 24 hours before symptoms appear.

· While we are experiencing such widespread activity, Hospitals and Nursing Home visitation should be minimized. Consider calling or Face timing.

4. What should viewers be thinking during widespread Flu Activity?

Plan for your sick day. Do you have fluids and fever relieving medicines during the acute illness?

Be cognizant that 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.

Due to being able to shed a virus for 24 hours before your own symptoms appear, exercise caution when visiting those with compromised immune systems…especially those who are already hospitalized or in a nursing home. Try calling or Face timing to stay in touch until transmission risks drop off.