Tag Archives: flu

What’s Nu with Flu?

I previously wrote about influenza at the end of 1918. But I couldn’t resist adding a bit more to the story based on the December, 2018 book “Influenza” by Jeremy Brown, MD.

So what’s “nu”? Brown tells the well-known story of 1918, the search for the original virus, etc., but then adds to the melodrama. For example, the truth about Tamiflu. Therein hangs a tale. Seems that Tamiflu (or oseltamivir if you prefer generic names) is only marginally effective. Supposedly it can shorten the symptomatic period by only a day and only if it is taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. OK, well something is better than nothing I suppose.

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But the story doesn’t end there. Seems that governments around the world, including the US government, bought into the Hoffman-LaRoche inspired hype that Tamiflu was the best hope the world has to abort any impending influenza pandemic. With that in mind, the Strategic National Stockpile of emergency medicine, maintained by the CDC, added millions of doses of Tamiflu to its warehouses.

But the Cochrane Collaborative, an independent scientific critic, as quoted by Jeremy Brown said that Tamiflu was marginally effective in treating influenza and a little more effective in preventing it, but came with its own list of side effects that could imitate the symptoms of flu itself.

So, what to do? Hand hygiene, barrier protection, avoiding sick people if possible, and, of course, vaccination. Vaccination is only about 50% effective in prevention but may possibly lower the severity of an infection. I get my flu shot every year and don’t forget to cross my fingers. So far, so good.

Keep smiling!

Gordon Short, MD
Brevis Corporation

Can the holidays make you sick?

What makes us get sick more often during the holiday season?

Many theories have been postulated and studied over the years and many factors are blamed for being virus enablers. Closer proximity of hosts (us) within closed spaces makes transmission easier due to the shared air we breathe while indoors and the common surfaces we touch as people share confined areas. Further, foods are presented and ingested in areas with higher germ populations due to the foregoing.

Other theories suggest that inactivity and depression generally increases with the cold and gloomy weather and this coupled with decreased exposure to the sun may tend to inhibit our immune systems.

We suspect that all of these factors and more contribute to the seasonal spike in illnesses. But, there are some commons sense actions that can help reduce your chances of being the next holiday (infection) host. The most effective way to reduce your risks of seasonal sickness is to wash your hands often, especially after shaking hands, touching surfaces in common areas such as handrails and countertops and especially before eating.

In the spirit of holiday cheer (and microbial fear) check out these funny new flu and handwashing posters meant to remind with mirth and good cheer.

Healthy holidays to all.


New Flu & Handwashing Posters

 

Image of flu close up by cdc.gov.

Can Being Cold Make You Sick?

 

We bundle up when it’s cold outside so we can stay comfortable by being warm. But does staying warm also contribute to being healthy?

FLU

Prolonged exposure to cold can lead to serious health problems like hypothermia and frostbite. Infants and older adults are particularly susceptible to sickness in winter months. But the common cold is caused by rhinovirus, which replicates more readily at cooler temperatures– like in a nasal cavity, rather than a place closer to a warmer core body temperature.  

 

Ellen Foxman, an assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine, and her colleagues have embarked on a study to determine whether colder temperatures make the virus more effective or the immune system less effective. Examining the innate immune system (present in every cell) in airways in mice, and in human cells, yielded similar results: at a warmer core body temperature, innate immune pathways blocking viral growth are more active, and an enzyme that degrades the viral genome works better.

 

So go ahead and put that scarf around your nose– the warmth might help you avoid that cold after all. Even more, Foxman recommends washing your hands so germs aren’t transmitted to your eyes, nose, or mouth. She explains, “If the virus isn’t in your nose, it can’t cause infection.”

 

Sources:

http://www.popsci.com/can-being-cold-really-make-you-sick

https://www.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/index.html