Update as of February 2016
The influenza virus is one of several very curious germs that show up in our part of the world in a seasonal pattern. That is, there are months in every year when essentially no one in Ohio gets infected with the influenza virus, and there are also months in every year when the virus is rampant.
Typically, the influenza virus arrives in Ohio in December and leaves us by March and April, peaking around New Years.
The virus causes mainly colds, aches, and fevers, with runny noses, sore bodies, high fevers, terrible coughs, as well as some familiar complications like ear infections and viral pneumonias. Altogether, these illnesses are also known as respiratory infections.
In a typical winter in Ohio, about a third of respiratory infections from viruses are from influenza viral infections. That's right, even during a heavy epidemic year of influenza virus, about 2/3 of colds and flus are from other viruses that are completely unrelated to the influenza virus.
The 2015-2016 influenza virus infection, so far
So how about this year's influenza epidemics, how is it going here in Ohio?
Two facts really stand out:
1. It showed up late. The appearance of the influenza virus, not just on Ohio, but across the United States, did not really burst on the scene in December, or January. Around the usual peak time, New Years, it wasn't even at epidemic level. But as of mid-February, we are seeing a big jump in its appearance in the US, almost two months late! The jump is mostly in the American SouthWest.
2. Ohio is starting to see more, as of mid-February. State-by-state tracking shows Ohio was essentially dormant for the influenza virus all through 2016, until very recently. Even now, the latest reports show Ohio being a relatively quiet state with only local, isolated outbreaks of influenza. But Kentucky, Iowa, and New York are now showing very widespread influenza viral appearances.
The influenza virus is a very seasonal player, but rather than peak around New Years, it appears to be emerging later in the year, around now actually.
So stay tuned, we may be seeing a big jump in respiratory colds and flus now and in the coming weeks.
Of course, even if the influenza virus does not jump forward, the other viruses that cause respiratory colds and flus of course have been very active and causing plenty of them.
Also, a brief note on Tamiflu. I always pay careful attention to the disclaimers in drug commercials, they only state the worst of the side effects, so if they are mentioned, you can be sure those side effects happen and are deeply troubling. The current ad on TV for Tamiflu states something to the effect that children in particular are at risk for suffering a seizure if they take Tamiflu. This does fit with known side effect profiles of Tamiflu. Further Tamiflu is not very effective in pediatric influenza infections, providing only modest relief.
Given that it tends not to offer substantive relief, and puts children at risk of having a seizure, we do not advise use of Tamifly routinely for flu infections in children.
To your health,
Dr. Arthur Lavin
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