Our influenza season is running hot this year, and I’m not talking about the temperatures. Montana in general has wide spread flu activity with cases of both influenza A and B in the mix. The flu vaccine has been somewhat effective with the CDC estimating 30% coverage for the strains we have seen.

The best treatment is prevention and that starts with immunization. We do have two available medications that are used to treat people with known infection but, overall, they are not overly effective and cost over $100 at most pharmacies. To be most effective, the medication must be taken within 48 hours of symptoms. Their use for prevention, if you have had close exposure, is about 70-90% effective in keeping you from becoming ill. If you do become sick and suspect you have a more severe illness than the common cold, you may want to be seen. There are several symptoms that differentiate a common cold from influenza with influenza consisting primarily of fevers greater than 101, severe body aches, and significant headache. Both influenza and the common cold produce upper respiratory symptoms including runny nose, cough, and a sore throat.

If you are a DPC patient make sure you use your DPC benefits and contact your provider directly to discuss your concerns. Remember, your flu vaccine and flu testing are covered with the membership at no extra cost.

Influenza related deaths occur in the thousands every year. The CDC estimates that anywhere between 12,000 to 56,000 people have succumbed to the virus yearly, since the 2000s. Most deaths are associated with the very young, under 4, the elderly, or those with underlying health problems including lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, and immunocompromised states. However, we still see cases of completely healthy people succumbing to the virus. Sepsis, pneumonia, and organ failure are typically to blame. Finally, remember the vaccine is the best option for prevention. Anti-virals have some benefit in slowing the infection and reducing severity of symptoms but only if taken early in the illness. Do not rely on the meds however, they are not magic. See your provider for any upper respiratory symptoms with associated fevers, headache and body aches. These are the hallmark symptoms of flu – oh and the forever trusted “I just want to die” feeling. So, get your flu shot!

- Josh Smith, FNP

Josh Smith, FNP

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