The flu is spreading through multiple states as people are feeling symptoms of its 2013 season, and while it’s been called the worst outbreak in 10 years by the CDC, we have a list of early signs that may help you get treatment as well as vaccination if you catch the epidemic virus.
The CDC is reporting that 29 states are experiencing a more widespread and virulent flu than last year’s strain, though doctors suggest that the actual strains are not so different from each other.
“Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons,” Dr. Joe Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division, said in a statement. “While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations.”
The measure used by the CDC to determine prevalence of ILI is based on reports from a sample of around 3,000 health care providers of how many patients are visiting them with flu-like symptoms. So far, about 5.6 percent of Americans have come in with some type of flu symptom. As Slate points out, that’s fewer than the six percent who appeared in doctors’ offices during the 2007/2008 season and definitely fewer than the 7.7 percent of those who appeared at doctor’s offices during 2009’s H1N1 “swine flu” pandemic.
It’s important to look closely at that metric: people with symptoms that could be attributed to flu, who went to the doctor. Higher numbers may indicate a more widespread virus — or more widespread concerns over the virus, leading to more hospital visits. ILI is also not the same as confirmed flu cases — many of the symptoms that can indicate flu could also be signs of a cold or another type of virus.
“Think of the flu as a respiratory infection that causes systemic effects,” explains Dr. Travis Stork, ER physician and co-host of “The Doctors.” “In addition to a dry cough you can also have fever, body aches, chills, and a headache. The flu can make you feel miserable ‘all over’ and in some cases, can lead to serious illness in susceptible individuals.”
The flu virus is a respiratory illness and can cause many of the symptoms that everyone has experienced at one time or another: fever, body aches, coughing, congestion and fatigue. Most of the symptoms that are caused by the flu virus could also just as easily be the result of a cold virus infection, according to the CDC.
It’s never too late to get a flu shot and most doctors are recommending the pneumonia shot as well.