Fatigue? Headache? Chest discomfort? Maybe a sore throat and a runny nose?
You just might have the flu. It has been spreading across Alaska’s urban core.
The first spike of the winter started late in December, according to the tracking of the Alaska Influenza Report. Pushed by an outbreak late that month, confirmed flu cases grew from 74 in November to 226 in December to 295 through the first three weeks of January.
More than 60 percent of the reported cases were in the Southcentral region of the state, and more than 50 percent were in the region’s Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs.
The reported numbers are just the tip of the annual flu iceberg. Only confirmed cases of flu register. All of the people who avoid work for a few days and just stay home to recover don’t show up in the statistics.
“Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks,” according to the Centers for Disease Control, but anyone who is sick for more than a few days should see a doctor. Life-threatening pneumonia can develop as consequence of the flu.
“The flu is different from a cold,” the federal agency adds, in that it “usually comes on suddenly” and strongly.
Key symptoms are fatigue, chills alternating with a fever or the feeling of a fever, sometimes severe head and body aches, chest discomfort, a cough and sometimes a sore throat, runny nose, and sneezing.
Or, to generally summarize, an all-round feeling of crap. (The author happened to check the state flu report after this feeling landed on him with a thud on Monday.)
The CDC says that most people who have the flu or think they have the flu should just “stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.”
Unless, of course, you work with people you hate. The flu is highly contagious and can be easily spread. You don’t want to give it to your friends. Your feelings toward your enemies is between you and them.
The CDC does suggest people in high-risk groups – pregnant women, the elderly, children under age five, those with significant medical conditions, and American Indians or Alaska Natives – consult medical professionals.
People who haven’t obtained a flu shot, especially people in high-risk groups, might also think about getting one now, according to the CDC. Those who don’t want to get a flu shot can help reduce their risks of catching the flu by staying away from others who have it, and regularly washing their hands with soap and water or using alcohol rubs.
The flu is caused by a nasty little virus that likes to cling to the surface of counters, drinking glasses or other objects just waiting to ambush its next victim.
The CDC reported flu on the increase everywhere in the country. Flu related deaths for Jan. 15-21 reporting period were above epidemic levels. Though the flu is not a major risk to most people, it should be taken seriously. The CDC has implicated the flu in the death of 56,000 Americans over the course of the 2012-13 season.