Monday, September 21, 2009

Mass DPH Flu Pamphlet

There’s a marked increase in the amount of sniffling and coughing around the courthouse this morning. What would otherwise be quietly categorized as a few late summer colds or allergies now gains much greater attention because of the heightened concern about the possibility of a flu pandemic this year. While there’s certainly no need to panic, prudence suggests that everyone take some simple steps to prepare for the possibility of a serious flu season.

With that in mind, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has published a pamphlet called “Flu: Caring for People at Home” which is available online in PDF format here. This pamphlet contains a list of the basic steps you can take to (1) prevent catching the flu in the first place and (2) treat yourself or others after being infected by the flu. (I won’t list all the items here but you should check out the full publication).

One thing that does deserve mention, however, is a breakdown of the type of illnesses that most commonly effect people:

Seasonal flu - is caused by influenza viruses that infect people every year. In New England, flu season usually begins in December and lasts until April. The most common flue symptoms are (1) sudden onset of fever; (2) tiredness or weakness; (3) body aches; and (4) dry cough.

Pandemic flu - can occur when a new influenza virus develops. Most people will not have any immunity, which means they will not be able to fight off this new virus. This may allow the virus to spread easily from person to person, and cause many people around the world to get the flu. There have been 3 pandemics in the last hundred years.

“Stomach bug” - is different from the flu. Its symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting. A “stomach bug” is caused by other germs, not influenza viruses.

Common Cold - is also different from the flu. The most common symptoms of a cold are a stuffy nose, sneezing, cough, and sore throat. Colds are usually milder than the flu and do not come on as suddenly.

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