Thursday, January 11, 2018

This flu season is looking bloody dangerous

Miss D. and I are both on the mend after about ten days of being pole-axed by the current flu virus.  We both ended up with incipient bronchitis, despite doing our best to follow medical instructions and safeguard ourselves.  It's been a very unpleasant experience, one neither of us would like to repeat anytime soon.

Unfortunately, we're far from alone in having been laid low.  Local hospitals have been overwhelmed by patients streaming (literally and figuratively) to the ER with flu symptoms, so much so that they've appealed for people to go to their primary physicians first, rather than swamp all other emergency facilities.  It's reported that 15% to 20% of those going to the ER with flu symptoms end up being admitted, filling all available beds to capacity, and leading to a backlog of patients waiting for the next bed to open up.  Cases are up tenfold from this time in 2017, and deaths from flu and pneumonia in Texas are reportedly skyrocketing - 1,155 from October 1st, 2017 until January 3rd, 2018.

I hear that a big part of the problem is that many people simply can't afford to stay home when they feel flu symptoms coming on.  Too many families have eaten up their financial reserves, and also are now in lower-paying jobs than they may have had before the economic crisis of 2007/08.  They can't afford to be without income for a week or so while they get over the flu.  It's the difference between being able to buy food for their children, or not.  That means they're spreading the infection far and wide, which is bad enough;  but it also means they're getting worse, rather than better, and ending up in the ER instead of being able to recover from a lesser infection at home.

I don't have an easy answer for that.  It's all very well to say that food banks and other charities should take up the slack;  but around here, such facilities are already short-staffed and under-supplied.  How will they cope with a sudden, drastic increase in demand, when there's no corresponding increase in supply?  Your guess is as good as mine - but my guess is, they won't be able to cope at all.  Also, if sick people have to congregate at such places to get food, or volunteers have to deliver food to them, you've just got a brand-new vector for the spread of the disease.

Folks, please be careful.  If you find you're getting even the initial symptoms of a cold or flu-like infection, please consult your doctor ASAP, and do everything you're told.  Aesop has a very good list of precautions and prophylactic treatments we can all follow, if necessary.  They're worth reading in full, and applying.



Will Martindale said...

Besides all the usual precautions (wash hands, etc.) the best flu preventative I have found is 5000 units per day of vitamin D3 (the "sunshine" vitamin). Why is winter the "flu season"? Because nobody gets enough sun in places where there is actual winter. The flu virus is around all year, but only becomes a problem when people are D3 deficient. Don't worry about ODing, a 20 minute exposure to full summer, noon sun will allow your body to generate over 20,000 units of D3, so a 5000 unit pill is not too much.

Anonymous said...

Well, we could join the civilized world and mandate a few days’ paid sick leave for all employees...

Anonymous said...

I'm personally going to recommend a chiropractor that uses homeopathic's. I know mainstream medicine doesn't believe they are anything but alcohol and water, but my family and I have really experienced an increase in our overall health after following the holistic doc's suggestions... YMMV

Anonymous said...

Wife works in a medical field and they've been swamped with influenza cases. Unfortunately the shot this year wasn't configured for the strains that took hold. Everyone in her office got it despite all having the shot. I got it too despite the shot and it is exceedingly rare for me to catch office bugs she gets. Maybe 1 time out of every 10 times I catch what she has. Lingers too. Been a couple weeks and I still don't feel right.

As to staying home, her current employer policy is that if you don't have a fever you work. Her former employer was ridiculously overzealous with absenteeism. You come to work unless you have time off scheduled in advance. Period. Got a 103 fever? You wear a mask and work. 3 feet of snow or ice storm? We don't care the roads are closed you should've stayed at a hotel near the hospital-get here or else. You have like 3 non-scheduled days off for whatever reason in a year they'd write you up, take your bonus or raise or fire you. Being hospitals and clinics you'd think they'd be a bit more flexible especially when it wasn't critical care, just a dr office, but they were unbelievable hard asses when it came to that.

Anonymous said...

Also there is a nationwide shortage of IV fluids. Hospitals are taking measures to limit the use of fluids and only for the most needy.

Why, you may ask? The results of hurricane Maria and the devastation of Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico is THE major supplier of IV fluid manufacturing. They have yet to come back online.

My entire family has been affected. I am the only one who had the flu shot. Guess what? It didn't work with 100% effectiveness. In fact I can't tell I fared any better than anyone else in the family.


JohninMd (Help!?!!) said...

Use of M-95 masks such as is common in Japan may help stop the spread of the disease, as well....

Judy said...

JohninMd - that was going to be my suggestion also. Not enough face-mask wearing by the infected.

If, you know, you have an upper-respiratory infection be it a cold, flu or whatever, put a face-mask on and keep it to yourself. When is it going to become socially unacceptable to not wear a face-mask when sick?

Anonymous said...

There is a reason that the old British under-officer toast was "To Bloody Wars and Sickly Seasons!"

Many businesses have gone to Flex Time, which is a combination of the old vacation time and sick time. Usually with a loss of about a quarter of the total accrual time. So families that have flex time have less time for being sick. One family member can wipe out all the accrued time, leaving nothing for the rest of the family. And that is in a family that is wise in it's use of time.

And then there are the HR policies and procedures that penalize workers for being smart and staying home. Easier to just stay sick at your desk than to do the dreaded 3 day sick call-in, since many evaluations punish the sick leave user for using sick leave and not infecting co-workers. Same with schools. Little Timmy may be coughing up a lung but it is more important to have his sick butt in school than at home, for federal monies, of course.

Broken system. But do we need to recede back to the time of Polio, TB, Smallpox wiping out our schools and workplaces before we change our policies? Judging from the way the government (bureaucrat side) and business function, we will need a full-scale Black Death before anything changes.

Anonymous said...

So the science is settled, eh!??! Get the flu shot they said, it will help you to escape the flu they said.
Actually folks, WHO DECIDES what variety of the flu gets put into the "flu shot"????
And if they have been sssoooooo accurate for so many years; how and why did they cock it up this year?


Kristophr said...

Already got my flu shots ... too much work with the public, ya know?

Maybe I'll become even more autistic?

Paul, Dammit! said...

With respect to earlier commenters, limiting exposure to the virus is key to avoiding the virus. Supplements, dancing clockwise around a fire, making obeisance to Shiva, whatever, opening the damn windows is the easiest thing that can be done to minimize spread of the virus among the general public. We coop ourselves up and crank the heat up in the winter, breathing recycled air.

I'm on a boat, fairly well isolated from flu, although I might just get something hideous from the 3rd world, dealing with foreign engineers and merchant seamen. Truly dreading having to go get groceries in Brooklyn this weekend. I feel like I'm going to visit Molokai in the 19th century.

McChuck said...

True facts about the flu. The flu is more prevalent in the winter because 1) Our bodies work harder to keep warm in the cold, reducing resources for the immune system. 2) The flu virus survives outside the body longer in the cold than in the heat. There is a reason your body cranks up the heat when you have the flu - heat kills flu virii.

Vitamin C (as long as you have enough to be healthy) has no effect on the immune system's function.

Homeopathic "medicine" is nothing more nor less than snake oil. Instead of those expensive treatments of water than was stored in the same warehouse as some herbs, just drink some fruit juice. It's better for you.

The flu shot almost never works as advertised. It takes a minimum of three years to create, get approvals for, and mass produce a vaccine. The flu mutates about every 12-18 months. Do the math. Getting a shot after five years of not having the flu may be a good idea, however, as it will get you caught up on the more recent antibodies.

Americans don't wear masks to hide their faces. Only robbers, Muslims, paramilitary SWAT teams and left wing rioters do that. Unless you're skiing.

Aesop said...

Try reading the linked post.
The flu shot is revised annually.
From mid-October to end of December 2017, the CDC had identified 648 active strains of influenza in the U.S.; the shot contained four.
(Usually, it's only three).

TPTB try to scientifically guesstimate which way last year's viruses will mutate next year. Picking 3-4 options out of hundreds of possibilities is a crap shot or lotto pick, at best.

Some past years have been 95+% effective, this year's is estimated at around 19% effective.

One recent year we had almost no vaccine at all, and people were told to cover their cough, stay home when sick, and wash their frickin' hands.
People panicked about dying: they covered their cough, stayed home when sick, and washed their frickin' hands.
It was one of the mildest flu outbreak years on record as a direct result.

So if people would stop throwing straw bundles around the bonfire for Big Pharma because they hear that dog whistle, and stop worshiping spirit animals and practicing voodoo, and instead use their heads for something besides a hatrack, the flu would be a minor inconvenience most years, instead of this year's epidemic, because so many nitwits think they're smarter than science that was settled by the 1850s.
News Flash: Germ Theory is really a thing.

And while I'm up, I'd like world peace, and for more than 10% of the jacktards on the freeway to use their turn signals. And a pony.

Anonymous said...

You mean I killed a white chicken under the light of a full moon in the backyard while wearing my underwear backward and buried its bisected pancreas under a sweetgum tree for nothing!?!?!?! For nothing!?!?!

Feather Blade said...

buried its bisected pancreas under a sweetgum tree for nothing!?!?!?!

I'm sure the sweetgum appreciated the nutrients.

Anonymous said...

You go to the gym - one of the BEST ways to get sick is to go to the gym and 'touch' stuff other people have touched, moistened and hacked on.

I am a gym rat (and I tried posting this a week ago, but for some reason it did not show up). When I learned the following rules, I stopped picking up every damned thing that was going around:

1. Wash your hands.
2. NEVER touch your face. NEVER put your fingers in your mouth. EVER
3. Wash your hands, carefully after you are done working out. Play surgeon: turn the water off with your elbow, open the door to the gym with your forearm.

Go home and take a shower. Never shower at the gym. God knows what creeping crud the last guy had on their feet (or whatever). Who knows what 'shower manners' other people have (peeing/spitting in the shower. Sheesh!) Shower at home as soon as you can.

Cap'n Jan