The flu hit early this season, but doctors around the nation are warning the virus has yet to reach its peak. During the second week of January, 7.5 percent of all U.S. deaths were directly related to flu and pneumonia illnesses, surpassing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) epidemic threshold of 7.2 percent. With 40 states now reporting widespread disease activity, the CDC was officially forced to elevate the 2014 flu season to “epidemic” status.
Several states are now being bombarded by the virus, with H1N1 again being the most prevalent strain. The term “H1N1” strikes fear into the hearts of many Americans, as this particular strain reached pandemic proportions back in 2009, killing thousands. Unfortunately, 2014 has seen doctors diagnosing the same flu strain all over again, leaving many patients at risk for complications leading to hospitalization.
What’s the key to surviving this deadly flu season? Prevention — and if that fails, rest, proper nutrition and flu remedies. While some inevitably will get lucky and soldier through the illness without facing serious difficulties, others will not be so fortunate. In fact, certain groups are predisposed to deadly flu complications, making strict preventative measures essential to avoid the virus’ deadly consequences.
Disinfecting the World Around You
Did you know that up to 80 percent of all infections are actually transmitted through direct and indirect contact? Thousands of germs are unwillingly transferred from place to place, hitching rides on unsuspecting fingertip after unsuspecting fingertip. In fact, there are more germs residing on bathroom sink faucets than there are on toilet seats. What’s even more shocking, kitchen sinks contain up to 100,000 times more germs and pathogens than found in the whole bathroom.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend you interrupt the transmission by routinely disinfecting all commonly touched surface areas at home and at work. Disinfecting commonly touched surfaces like light switches, TV remotes and computer keyboards can make a world of difference. It’s one of the easiest ways to cut down on the transmission of germs and flu viruses. The problem, however, is that a lot of cleaning products don’t actually disinfect. Instead of killing dangerous germs and bacteria, these products simply spread them around. Use products like Lysol disinfectant spray and disinfecting wipes, which are proven to kill 99 percent of all bacteria and germs found on common surface areas.
Vitamins and Supplements
For decades, medical experts have debated whether or not certain vitamins and supplements can prevent the flu virus. While some show no promise, others have shown an ability to either shorten the duration of illness or, as in the case of vitamin D, reduce your risk of contracting both influenza and pneumonia when used to correct a deficiency. Either way, speak with your doctor before beginning a vitamin or supplement regimen, as some can interact with medications or nutrients.
Zinc. As one of the more popular immune-boosting supplements, zinc is an essential ingredient for healthy immune systems. Medical professionals note that older people are commonly zinc deficient, making this supplement of great value during flu season. You can take one zinc lozenge at the first sign of a cold, allowing it to completely dissolve in your mouth. Then, you can take one lozenge every two to three hours for up to one week. Excess use would surpass the total daily recommended dose, making zinc levels too high.
Vitamin D. If you have a vitamin D deficiency, which an estimated 40 percent of Americans are, supplementation can actually work wonders with reducing the risk of flu and respiratory infections. You are much more likely to be vitamin deficient if you take in little sun exposure, avoid dairy products or don’t eat foods high in vitamin D. As with all supplements, it is strongly encouraged that you consult a physician before starting a vitamin D regimen.
Antiviral drugs are prescription medications that may help to prevent complications associated with influenza or shorten the severity and duration of flu once you have it. These drugs literally decrease the flu virus’s ability to reproduce in the body. We have seen antiviral drugs reduce the duration of flu symptoms in healthy adults/children — and even reduce the severity of common flu symptoms.
Our pharmacists, along with the CDC, recommend antiviral drugs for both flu prevention and treatment purposes. These medications work most efficiently when taken within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms but can still offer some form of relief when taken later. As a preventative measure, your physician may prescribe an antiviral drug for you after coming into close contact with someone who has the flu.
Rodney Sewell is a thought leader in the pharmaceutical industry and a highly experienced M.D., owning his own practice in Atlanta, GA. Connect with Rodney on Google+.