Flu an unwanted guest

Press Release – Mille Lacs Health System
16. Dec. 2014
Mary Rains, Marketing Manager

Flu an unwanted guest
By Vicki Engmark
MLHS Respiratory Therapist

Here we are, getting ready for the Holidays ... gifts, parties, family, friends. But one uninvited guest may show up: Influenza.

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) states that flu activity has increased in Minnesota over the last couple weeks. There have been more hospitalizations from flu, positive flu tests, and outbreaks of influenza-like illness. According to the MDH, Minnesota is experiencing widespread transmission. The predominant influenza strain circulating in MN is Influenza A (H3N2). In the past, when H3N2 was the common strain, the flu season has been more severe, meaning more illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to flu.

Influenza is a virus that causes respiratory illness. It can be rather confusing as there are many strains or variations of the influenza virus with several different strains circulating every year.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) monitors the virus and predicts which strain will circulate and those are selected to be in the vaccine. There are years we hear that the predominant circulating virus is not in the vaccine and many wonder if it’s worth it to get the flu shot. The answer is that the vaccine is still beneficial. It will help you fight the viruses that are in the vaccine, and the CDC reports that people who do get ill from a different virus often have a less severe illness.

“We are aware that H3N2 can cause serious illness, particularly for people who have significant cardiac or pulmonary disease,” states Dr. Virnig, Family Practice Physician at Mille Lacs Health System. “In order for antiviral therapy to be effective, it should be started within 24 hours of onset of fever.” It’s important if you begin to have influenza symptoms (fever, cough, body aches) to contact your provider, especially those people with cardiac or pulmonary disease.