A doctor’s first-hand account of the flu

Even I am not immune to influenza. In Northeastern Ohio, there have been more hospitalizations and school closings this year from influenza. And, let me tell you, as a family physician who also sees patients in the hospital and the office, we have seen a lot more respiratory illnesses versus last year.

No, I’m not one of those Dr. Oz hypocrites who skip the influenza vaccine. We already know the credibility of what Dr. Oz says. I received my quadrivalent influenza vaccine back in October. But, as been covered in the news, this year’s flu shot is less effective because of virus mutation.

There is definitely a difference between a common cold and a real influenza infection. Symptoms of influenza include muscle aches, fever, cough, headache, fatigue, and nasal congestion. I woke up yesterday morning with, what felt like, every single muscle in my body aching. You feel like you can’t sit still because you want to try get up and walk it off. Yet, you feel so fatigued that you don’t want to move.

You want to lie down and sleep, but then the cough and nasal congestion keep you from lying flat. So, you have to resort to sitting up to try to take a nap. In addition, to try to keep from getting dehydrated, I’ve been trying to drink as much water as I can.

As recent as one week ago, there were articles written about short-term shortages in the prescription influenza medication called Tamiflu. I know that our office have had to call multiple local pharmacies to find the medication. Fortunately, I was able to start the medication right away. So that you know, Tamiflu works most effectively if started within 48 hours of symptoms. Prescription influenza medications decrease symptoms by 1 to 2 days.

In case you didn’t know, you can be contagious for 1 to 2 days before showing influenza symptoms. The duration of the influenza infection is about 3 to 4 days. If left untreated, influenza can lead to complications like pneumonia.

The influenza vaccine is not perfect, but it is the best protection that we have against infection. Even if you have not received your flu vaccine yet, it is not too late. Those at highest risk for influenza infection include older people and younger people, those with chronic illnesses, those with weakened immune systems, and, of course, health care workers.

I wrote this first-hand account of my influenza infection, so that you will never have to go through this. Much has been written about potential Ebola epidemic, but you should be more worried about influenza infection, especially in Northeastern Ohio, where hospitalizations from the flu have increased 162 percent over one year ago. According to the CDC, annual deaths from influenza have ranged from 3,000 to 49,000. How many deaths in the United States have there been from Ebola?

When you recognize the symptoms early, get to your doctor right away. Better than that, know your risk of influenza infection and get vaccinated. There is still time. Flu season sometimes goes all the way into the Spring.

Mike Sevilla is a family physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Dr. Mike Sevilla.

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