Winter is coming, so is the next flu season
In 2017 over 250,000 people were reported to have contracted a form of influenza last calendar year. Over 1000 people unfortunately died from influenza or related illnesses making it one of the most severe flu seasons on record.
Over this same year the doctors at My Home GP attended to over 2000 cases of severe flu or related illnesses in metro Melbourne. With Summer officially over and the cooler months fast approaching, the team at My Home GP are bracing itself for what many experts are expecting to be an even busier and more severe 2018.
Influenza (of the flu for short) can be best described as a viral respiratory illness that is fast evolving into multiple forms. It is a microscopic agent that is highly infectious that ultimately results is sickness symptoms including a cough, sore throat, stuffy nose, fever, aches and pains, headache, excessive tiredness and in some cases gastro related conditions. Sometimes the symptoms due to their similarity, the flu can be confused with the common cold which can still be uncomfortable and distressing in certain circumstances. The flu is highly contagious because it can be easily spread for several days after any of the symptoms begin. In many cases the symptoms may start off as a simple nagging cough or a series of sneezing begins to kick from an infected person, in the event of a person with a weakened immune system being exposed the risk or a more serious medical diagnosis increases.
According to a great blog piece From Harvard University Grad School of Arts & Sciences in 2014(ref:http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2014/the-reason-for-the-season-why-flu-strikes-in-winter/) , some of the more popular theories about the perceived prevalence of the flu in winter are:
- During winter, people spend more time indoors with the windows sealed, so they are more likely to breathe the same air as someone who is infected with the Flu.
- Winter has shorter days and lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D and melatonin, leading to a compromised immune systems.
- The flu virus may better survive in colder and drier climates.
Some of the opinions of our team from My Home GP as to the prevalence of the Flu in winter months suggest it may be a combination of all the above points along with the fast evolving nature of the different strains of influenza each season.
To help prevent and minimise the impacts of the flu season, many health professional do recommend the latest Flu Vaccination, however in addition this, the points outlined by the Centres of Disease Control (ref: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/habits.htm) are valid also and include:
- Avoid close contact with contagious people
- Don’t go to work and stay home when you are sick
- Cover your mouth and nose when you are coughing and sneezing
- Always clean your hands