In California alone, it was recently reported that this season’s flu has taken 56 additional young and middle-aged lives, with almost all being confirmed as the H1N1 swine flu virus. So far, the total number of flu season deaths in California, as reported by the California Department of Public Health, is at 202. For perspective, the total number of deaths reported for the entire 2012-2013 influenza season was 106.
While this year’s season is finally showing signs of waning, experts like Dr. James P. Watt, chief of the Communicable Disease Control division, note that the flu is still something that is “notoriously unpredictable.”
H1N1: The warning signs
H1N1 flu symptoms are similar to those of the common flu. While the flu is a respiratory disease, meaning it affects the respiratory organs and tissues (such as the nose, throat, and lungs), symptoms are not limited to what you’d typically imagine when you think about those organs and tissues. Symptoms you should take note of, because of the range and variety that could occur, range from a 100 F or higher fever (though not everyone with the flu has a fever), coughing and/or a sore throat, a runny/stuffy nose, headaches and/or body aches, chills, fatigue, and nausea, vomiting, inability to keep fluids down, and diarrhea (most common in children).
H1N1: The best ways to prevent being infected
The flu can only be spread through moisture droplets (as opposed to being naturally airborne). Imagine that when someone with the flu coughs/sneezes/talks, and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes, or nose. To prevent:
- Get the flu vaccine. By far, this is the most important prevention step you can take. Getting a flu vaccination will not only reduce transmissions, but should you contract the flu, it greatly decreases the duration and severity. Of the two vaccines available, trivalent and quadrivalent, both protect against multiple strains of the flu, which include H1N1. Because the new strains of the flu predominate every year, you’ll want to get this vaccine 1) annually, and 2) as early in the flu season as you can. Flu season typically starts in the fall and peaks in January or February. Find out your closest flu vaccine location by using this handy finder.
- Stay well and practice good health habits. We place a lot of emphasis on this as well, as a way of safeguarding against illness, because a healthy immune system is integral to overall good health. Get sleep and regular exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
- Wash your hands – early and often, and with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Some times to be mindful of where hand washing should be a best practice include after contacting people, going to the bathroom, and before meals.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth (and other people’s, but mostly because that can be awkward).
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people (see above reasoning).
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and – this is pretty important – throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Ditch the hanky.
If you are exposed to or caring for someone with the flu and are concerned, you can talk to your doctor about preventive antiviral medications.
Know your numbers: What should you monitor?
Among the different recommended ways to prevent becoming infected and/or the spreading germs, we believe managing your immune health is a big one, as mentioned in our preventative steps above.There are specific biomarkers should be tracking to make a healthier immune system:
- hsCRP (High sensitivity C-Reactive Protein): A marker for the overall amount of inflammation in the body can be an indicator for health and a general marker for chronic disease, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, diabetes II, arthritis, and alzheimer’s. Why does hsCRP matter? Because if your body’s inflammatory mediators are chronically busy, they have a harder time stepping in to prevent and fight acute illness. While there are a few ways to test for inflammation, it turns out that high-sensitivity C-reactive protein is the best indicator currently known.
- Vitamin D: One of the easiest ways to boost immunity is manage your Vitamin D levels. It’s recommended that most people take 1,000 IUs per 25 pounds of body weight in the morning, with fat. Stay on top of supplementation and sunshine – both are important. It is important for us to mention that in a Vitamin D discussion we’ve held before, with Dave Asprey, the Bulletproof Executive, and WellnessFX founder Jim Kean, we talked about how it is important to be aware that too much Vitamin D may actually be bad, and contribute to inflammation. Find your own Vitamin D set point with periodic testing of the biomarker mentioned directly above, hsCRP.
- Cortisol: A stress hormone that reduces the immune response, leaving your body vulnerable to invading pathogens that can make you sick. If your cortisol number is out of range when you get your results (>23 mcg/dL), stress reduction may be in order.
- WBC (White blood cell count): White blood cells defend the body against disease and are a major component of the body’s immune system. The normal number of WBCs in the blood is 4,500-10,000 white blood cells per microliter (mcL).
What to do if you’ve already been infected
If you have a fever, or any of the symptoms mentioned above, and are concerned, you can schedule an appointment with your physician (unless it’s this fever, then we suggest you keep rocking it). According to Flu.gov, if you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine. Fever-reducing medicines are more about comfort than the fever causing actual bodily harm. Allow the fever to heal your body, as a fever promotes immune functioning.
To test for the first time (or to retest) these levels, we recommend a WellnessFX Baseline or Performance package – these biomarker packages will tell you where you stand, how to act on the results, and help you to stay out of the flu’s destruction path.
The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.