Flu Epidemic Still ‘Spreading Fiercely’

Flu Epidemic Still 'Spreading Fiercely'The flu is spreading fiercely across the United States, with more than 40 states reporting widespread activity in what one of the nation’s leading health officials is calling an epidemic.

‘Worst flu season’

The season has started earlier, and cases are more severe than last year, health officials say. The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu advisory report, which covers the week of December 23 to 29, suggests that 41 states have widespread influenza activity, which was an increase of 31 states from the previous week. The CDC will issue an update on the flu situation Friday.

Dr. David Zich, internal medicine and emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said this is the worst flu season he’s seen in his 12 years at his hospital, in terms of the concentration of patients. Zich theorizes that one reason there are so many flu cases is that the heart of the flu season coincided with the December holiday season, meaning many people were already sleep-deprived from parties and were more likely to get sick.

‘Antiviral treatment’

If you haven’t gotten an annual flu vaccine, it’s not too late, doctors say. To further protect yourself, try to avoid anyone who is sneezing and coughing, and wash your hands. Also, exercise and eat healthy foods, Zich said. But there are scenarios in which going to a hospital is necessary. The CDC recommends that people who have a higher risk of complications from the flu receive antiviral treatment. These include people with chronic illnesses such as pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurological conditions, as well as anyone 65 years and older and children under age 2.

What many people don’t know is that the flu vaccine becomes less effective as you get older or develop other medical problems, Zich said. The flu shot relies on the body’s antibodies against the flu, so if the immune system is already compromised, it will not work as well.

Have you contracted the flu lately? What actions do you take to strengthen your immune system and fight illness?

Source: CNN

Image: Murrays Health Care

New ‘SARS-Like’ Coronavirus Detected In Middle East

A new respiratory illness similar to the SARS virus that spread globally in 2003 and killed hundreds of people has been identified in a man who is being treated in Britain. The 49-year-old man, who was transferred to a London hospital by air ambulance from Qatar, is the second person confirmed with the coronavirus. The first case was a patient in Saudi Arabia who has since died.

Officials are still determining what threat the new virus may pose. The World Health Organization has not recommended any travel restrictions. Prof John Watson, head of the respiratory diseases department at the UK’s Health Protection Agency, said there was no specific evidence of the virus spreading from person to person and he had no advice for the public or returning travellers.

Peter Openshaw, director of the Centre for Respiratory Infection at Imperial College London, told Reuters that at this stage the novel virus looked unlikely to prove a concern, and may well only have been identified due to sophisticated testing techniques.

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses which includes ones that cause the common cold and SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome). This new virus is different from any coronaviruses that have previously been identified in humans.

SARS is a serious respiratory infection that caused a global outbreak in 2002, spreading from Hong Kong to more than 30 different countries around the world and killing around 800 people. Although it has not been eradicated its spread was fully contained in 2003. Like other coronaviruses, it is spread through droplets of body fluids – produced by sneezing and coughing.

Are you alarmed with the news that a new SARS-like virus has been found? Share your thoughts on this recent world health issue!

Source: BBC News

Image: Al Jazeera