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BCH Physicians Discuss Influenza

November 18, 2019


[Dr. Mark King] Hi, I’m Dr. Mark King. I’m an infectious
disease specialist at the Beacon Center for Infectious Disease at Boulder
Community Health. Today we are going to talk about influenza, commonly referred
to as the flu. Influenza is a common contagious
respiratory illness that is caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat and
lungs. Its symptoms can range from mild to severe and can include runny nose,
cough, sore throat and fever. In some cases, influenza and its complications
can be fatal. Every year influenza outbreaks occur
throughout the world. In the United States, influenza season occurs between
November and March. Flu seasons are unpredictable and the number of cases
and severity of disease varies from year to year. There are about three to five
million cases of severe illness reported worldwide each year. About five to twenty
percent of the U.S. population gets the flu each year with more than 200,000
people requiring hospitalization from flu-related complications. In 2014,
3,400 flu-related hospitalizations occurred in Colorado.
Most people recover from the flu on their own, however, deaths or serious
complications such as pneumonia do occur. Worldwide, it is estimated that 250,000
to 500,000 influenza-associated deaths occur each year. Anyone can get influenza. Certain groups
are at higher risk for severe disease or complications. This includes children
under age two, adults over 65, pregnant women and people with underlying medical
conditions or weakened immune systems. Influenza is spread through droplets
that occur when a person with influenza coughs, sneezes or talks. These droplets
can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. A person might
also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then
touching their own mouth, eyes or nose. A person with influenza is contagious to
others beginning one day before the symptoms start and for five to seven
days after getting sick. [Dr. Todd Turner] Hello, I’m Dr. Todd Turner and I’m here
to talk to you about the symptoms and treatment of influenza. The most common
symptoms of influenza include a sudden onset of fever, typically accompanied by
headache, muscle pain and fatigue. This is followed by respiratory symptoms such as
cough, sore throat and runny nose. In some cases, the onset of illness is so rapid
that patients can identify the precise time of day that the illness began.
However, influenza may also produce symptoms which are difficult to
differentiate from the common cold. These include loss of appetite,
discomfort, weakness and dizziness. People may not develop a fever and respiratory
symptoms. These different symptoms are more common in older adults. A person who
develops influenza symptoms that do not readily resolve on their own should be
evaluated by a health care professional. Typically, doctors can diagnose influenza
based on symptoms alone. In some cases, your doctor may need to do a test to
determine if your illness is due to influenza or to some other health
problem. This test involves swabbing your nasal passages and then testing that
sample for the presence of the influenza virus. Influenza is treated using a group
of oral or inhaled drugs called neuraminidase inhibitors. This group
includes drugs such as oseltamivir, known as Tamiflu, and zanamivir, known as
Relenza. These drugs can reduce the duration of influenza symptoms by one
and a half to three days. The strongest benefit occurs when treatment is started
within 48 hours of illness. There can still be benefit if started later in the
disease. If your doctor prescribes you medication to take for influenza it is
important that you finish the entire course of treatment. [Nurse Bev McClary] Hi, I’m Bev and I’m a
nurse at Boulder Community Health and we’re going to cover several ways that
you can help minimize the spread of influenza. Make sure you get vaccinated
every flu season. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or your upper sleeve or elbow. Not
your hand. That way you’re less likely to spread the influenza virus to other
people or common surfaces. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer. If you have respiratory symptoms, you should stay
home. [Dr. Amie Meditz] We hope this video has given you a basic understanding of influenza. If you
have further questions, you’re welcome to make an appointment with one of our
providers at the Beacon Center for Infectious Diseases.

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