The Flu, You, and A Llama – What You Wish You Knew About Influenza
Currently, our Physicians Care Centers are seeing an average of 38 patients a day with flu related symptoms and in consideration of these digits – I felt that a proper post about the flu is needed. Let’s begin…
Influenza isn’t a one-size-fits-all virus. The real shape of the virus is a circle because it’s always going around! Ok, I am done with the jokes. In all seriousness – the flu has been identified into four types of viruses: A, B, C, and D. Most of us become victims of type A and B during the winter seasons while Type C doesn’t generally cause epidemics or grace us with the usual flu-like symptoms we’ve come to know and love. Oh, and Type D primarily affects cattle – The Flu & Moo. (cdc.gov) Type A Influenza is the most common virus infecting humans and can potentially fall into 144 different subtypes depending on hemagglutinin and neuraminidase counts – these are different types of proteins and enzymes found in viruses. If you really want to dive deep into the codex of Flu types, I recommend checking out www.sinobiological.com. This website allows you to explore each type of strain combination discovered thus far. Type H1N1 and H3N2 are the most common strains that infect humans and type H1N1 continues to mutate causing the first influenza pandemic in 40 years when it was labeled as “the swine flu” in 2009. Type A, strain H1N1 influenza brings many of the same symptoms a seasonal flu strain causes including fever and sore throat, however, it can introduce nausea, vomiting or diarrhea in addition to its arsenal of yuckyness. (www.cdc.gov)
Odds are, you’ve had the flu at one time in your life and the stomach flu at another. Sadly, the seasonal flu and the stomach flu aren’t even the same virus – they just share the same symptoms. Seasonal flu tends to come suddenly and will just make you reminisce of the times your body didn’t hurt by being alive. Symptoms can last from 2 to 10 days and if you’re able to be diagnosed quickly and prescribed antiviral medications the days of feeling like a human rust-bucket can dramatically decrease. (www.verywellhealth.com) The misleading stomach flu is actually gastroenteritis caused by norovirus, rotavirus, or a food-borne bacteria and tends to bring a rush of vile fluids to both our body’s attic and basement – sometimes at the same time. If you’re currently wondering which one you’ve got – take a quick look at our provided chart available for download! Symptoms and Sickness Chart
Speaking of seasonal flu, have you ever wondered why the flu seems to only be prevalent during the winter seasons? There’s been a debate on what’s the main spread factor of the flu during this time of year. Is the increased prevalence caused by us being inside more and sharing the same air with others? Is it because of the short days and lack of Vitamin D that compromises our immune systems? Is it because cold weather compromises our immune system? Or does the virus survive better in the harsh cold?
The answer my friends – is all of the above. However, recent studies have now proven that the flu does indeed transfer easier in colder and drier ecosystems. A peer-reviewed article studied the effects of climate and humidity and they were able to prove that the flu is dependent on both. The experiments proved that cold and dry conditions are the most favorable for the strain to spread. (Lowen, Mubareka, Steel, Palese) Also, the flu virus can live up to 48 hours on hard surfaces and 12 hours on cloth surfaces during room temperatures. If it’s below freezing the virus can live up to 30 days! (Friedlander, Mark) Science is cool, but sometimes harsh. Combining these evidence-based facts with the compounding effects of humans staying closer in proximity in the winter months makes it so the influenza virus seems completely cyclical.
So, what can be done!? Here is a list of options –
1) Get your flu shot! Flu vaccines have reduced the risk of flu-associated hospitalizations among adults on an average of 40%. (cdc.gov) There are so many misconceptions about the vaccine, I recommend looking at this page if you have doubts about it.
2) Boost your melatonin by eating fruits and vegetables like tart cherries, walnuts, pineapples, tomatoes, bananas and many others. (Howatson, PG, Tallent, Middleton, McHugh) Click on the article to see the science behind this diet! Melatonin encourages rejuvenating sleep which boosts our body’s immune systems.
3) Wash your hands often with soap and water! Try to avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
4) Drink some green tea mixed with lemon and honey. The steam from the tea will stimulate the hair follicles in your nose to move out germs while the lemon and honey will thin out mucus and provide natural antibacterial benefits to your body. (www.health.com)
5) Carry a pen everywhere you go! Not necessarily to write things down but to touch buttons we commonly are forced to do such as ATM’s or credit card readers. You can also purchase a pen that can be used to scroll on your phone rather than using your fingers!
6) If your co-workers are bringing in the sickness – invest in a mask! Although it’s not a cultural norm in our society, a 2008 study showed that those who used masks properly were 80% less likely to be diagnosed with the flu. (MacnIntyre, Dwyer, Seale, Fasher)
7) Do everything your mothers told you to do. Eat right, get plenty of sleep, and wash your hands.
And hey, one day thanks to our llama friends, we may live to see a time when we don’t require an annual flu shot. Researchers have created a nasal spray derived from several llama antibodies that target many strains of the flu at once (science.org) Maybe that’s why they be tryin’ to spit on us all the time!