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November 4, 2009

I’ve Got The Seasonal Flu…Yeah?!

Cough and Sneeze

It started way early this year. Walking around coughing. Runny nose. Deep congestion. Unsettled stomach.  Waking up at 3am and not being able to fall back asleep.  Despite the make-up I was wearing, I looked sick but I didn’t have a severe fever.  Yes I had muscle aches and chills and went from hot to cold in a nanosecond and a temperature higher than 98.6 but I didn’t have a severe fever.

I live in Florida so usually the flu doesn’t hit us until February – not this year; the flu came early.

Everyone who looked at me, and saw me blowing my nose, or coughing, probably thought I had the swine flu. I stopped at a local pharmacy and bought cough drops, aspirin and two different types of flu and cold medicine, as well as a large carton of orange juice. As the cashier saw me approaching, her eyes got big. She began to hesitate — as if she didn’t want me to approach her register. I could tell she thought I had the swine flu.

I tried to comfort her — telling her it was simply a pre-emptive strike. I said I was fine, but simply had a sore throat. I said I wanted to start drinking orange juice early just to play it safe. I doubt she fell for anything I said.

It seems like the different viruses, colds and other bad bug strains out there may be packing a little bit more punch this year. Most folks who get sick now automatically assume they’ve got the swine flu. I did, and it was kind of scary. I even went to the ATM machine and took out money — fearing I could end up in the hospital in a matter of hours.  Don’t ask the logic behind that thinking.

Since we don’t usually see a full blown outbreak of the seasonal flu in Florida until February health officials believe most of the influenza activity we are seeing right now is H1N1, and not the seasonal flu. So we could be looking at a double dose of flu activity this year. Swine flu now and seasonal flu later this winter. Hopefully that won’t be the case, but things are certainly off to a bad start.

It’s starting to look like we are in for a long and rough flu season. I’ve got my hand sanitizer ready. I’m sick now and I have no desire to get sick again.

The 2009 virus circulating the world isn’t strictly swine flu; rather, it’s a mix of swine, avian and human influenza that has never been seen before in humans. In the upcoming months, we’ll be dealt the double whammy of seasonal flu season and a potential second wave of swine flu.

Some people already have enough trouble determining if they have a cold or the flu; the symptoms are similar, although the flu’s symptoms are a bit more intense. But it may be especially difficult to know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, since the symptoms are extremely similar. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, stuffy or runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Swine flu patients also report diarrhea and vomiting, not usually present in seasonal flu.

A laboratory test is the only way to confirm a case of swine flu, but few tests have been done as most swine flu cases thus far look like a bout with seasonal flu. Many people recover without needing any medication or hospitalization, and some might not even know they’re ill. The mild nature of swine flu has led some to question why there needs to be any worry, as deaths have been far less than those attributable to seasonal flu.

However, because the current H1N1 influenza is completely new and no one has immunity, public health officials warn that swine flu could eventually cause more complications than seasonal flu does. Not only will there be more complications, they’ll likely be more serious. So far, doctors have reported that swine flu is more likely to result in viral pneumonia, as opposed to bacterial pneumonia often seen in seasonal flu cases; the bacterial version is much easier to treat than the viral kind.

Even if you don’t know if you have swine flu or seasonal flu, head to the doctor if you start to experience symptoms that aren’t part of a typical flu experience; these may be the warning signs of serious swine flu complications. That means everyone needs to remain vigilant about their health in the coming months.

Because swine flu and seasonal flu are transmitted in the same way, everyone should be on watch when it comes to prevention. Cover your mouth with your elbow when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often, stop touching other people’s stuff in the office, don’t touch that door handle, stop talking in other people’s face and stay home when you’re sick. Whether you have seasonal or swine flu, you’ll be doing everyone around you a favor.

I’m GLAD that I don’t have the ‘swine’ — just a bad case of the good old seasonal flu which takes about five to ten days to shake — according to the doctor.

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