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H1N1 Flu Active in Aiken and Surrounding Counties

By Gerald Gordon, MD
web posted January 3, 2014

COUNTY The H1N1 strain that circulated last year and was responsible for deaths in younger people less than 40, is back again and is in Aiken and the surrounding communities. The current H1N1 virus is the same new strain seen during the last two years and has been associated with greater mortality than most strains of influenza seen in the last 20 years.

Influenza can be seen in people of any age, but children, those with lung disease, heart disease, diabetes and other metabolic diseases, overweight individuals, pregnant women, those with neurological disease, immune suppressed individuals, residents of nursing homes, and those taking aspirin are at the highest risk. 

It is especially important for everyone over the age of 6 months to get a flu shot, not only to prevent getting the flu, but to prevent giving the flu to someone who may not have an adequate immune system or who has chosen to not get a flu shot.
Symptoms of influenza are sore throat, fever, dry cough, muscle aches, runny nose, headache, and at times nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Influenza can be complicated by neurological disease, muscle breakdown (rhabdomyolysis), heart damage (myocarditis), respiratory failure and secondary bacterial pneumonia.

Influenza is preventable with the flu shot and it is not too late to get one. There are many places that still have them available, to include Walgreens and CVS. Completely egg-free flu shots (Flublock) are available in some locations. 

While flu shots do not completely prevent you from getting the flu, a person who has had the flu shot is much less likely to die from the flu if they become ill. A person immunized is also less likely to spread flu to others whose immune system is inadequately able to fight infection, such as the very young or people receiving cancer treatment or others in high risk groups. 

There is usually more than one strain of influenza that circulates during the flu season so a person could get influenza as many as 4 times each flu season. Because a person may have had the flu once this year, that individual is still susceptible to the 3 other strains that may circulate.

Treatment of influenza should begin as early as possible especially within the first several days after the onset of illness. This gives the best chance of the treatment working (Tamiflu orally or inhaled Zanamivir). The flu shot may cause a person have a low grade fever and muscle aches, but the flu shot does not give a person the flu. 

Remember it is still not too late to get your flu shot this year. Flu season is considered to be from October 1st March 31st.

Editor's note: Gerald Gordon, MD, is with Aiken Regional's Internal Medicine Associates

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