The flu season is estimated to run from December through March annually, although you can get the flu at any time of the year. This year the flu is particularly serious, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announcing on January 26 that the flu activity has not yet peaked for the season.
The flu can be a serious condition for anybody: patients and family members of all ages, from the very young to the very old. The very young and the elderly are particularly at risk for the severe symptoms that the flu can cause. Patients with mesothelioma are on average around 72-years-old making them in the vulnerable group for this potentially serious condition. This year the flu has affected people in the continental United States and Puerto Rico.
The flu vaccine is recommended for most people. If you have not received it, talk to your medical team about getting it immediately. You can develop the flu even after getting the flu shot, but the course of the virus is usually less severe.
The flu is a virus that is contagious. Someone with the flu virus can infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop, and five to seven days after becoming sick. Children can pass the virus for longer than seven days. Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body. The flu can be passed on before you know you are sick and after the virus enters the body.
People with the flu can spread it to others from as far as six feet away. It is thought to be spread primarily by droplets from people with the flu when they sneeze, cough or talk. The droplets are then inhaled by people nearby into their lungs. The symptoms can come on quickly. The flu has a variety of symptoms. Some of the symptoms include high fever, respiratory illness, chills, severe aches in muscles and joints, pain and tiredness around your eyes, weakness or extreme fatigue, warm flushed skin and red watery eyes, headache, a dry cough, sore throat and runny nose. The treatment for the flu is to drink plenty of fluids, rest, and stay away from people so as not to spread the virus.
The flu can produce serious symptoms for some people who may benefit from anti-viral medications. The three common anti-virals that are prescribed are oseltamivir or Tamiflu, peramivir or Rapivab, zanamivir or Relenza. They all work best if taken within 48 hours of your first symptoms. It is thought that the medicines can shorten the length of your illness by a day, if you take them at the beginning of the symptoms.
The flu is an attack on your immune system. For some people it can be fatal. After getting the flu chances of heart attack are increased six-fold during the first seven days of a flu infection.
For patients and their families with malignant mesothelioma, the flu needs to be taken very seriously. You need to be in touch with your medical team particularly if any shortness of breath develops. Wash your hands frequently, isolate yourself if you suspect the flu, and please let your mesothelioma medical team know. The flu is serious!