Why it’s not “just the flu”

An infectious disease is killing 4,000 Americans weekly. Influenza, more commonly known as flu, has spread to 46 states in America and has multiplied hospitalization rates. What many civilians have always disregarded as a passing sickness is now expected by the U.S. Centers of Disease and Control (CDC) to claim far more lives than 2009’s swine flu epidemic, which amounted to 12,469 deaths and 60.8 million Americans infected in 2009-2010.

Flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Health experts are unsure of why this season’s outbreak is different from the previous epidemic. Strictly monitoring the numbers, the CDC has warned that this year’s flu outbreak can be the most severe in over a decade. And while numbers are vague in the Philippines, this disease is an ever-present danger in the country.

Influenza viruses have four types: A, B, C and D. Among these four strains, viruses A and B circulate and cause seasonal epidemics. However, in tropical countries like the Philippines, outbreaks are irregular and are occurring throughout the year. Flu, a contagious disease, can easily be transferred that infected patients can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away.

The symptoms of flu are often mistaken with that of a common cold. While these two diseases have similar manifestations, a common cold is milder than flu. Complications of flu can lead to bacterial infections, pneumonia, and even hospitalizations. Signs of flu which are rare with a common cold are headaches, body pains, and fever. It is imperative for Filipinos to be able to distinguish the symptoms of flu and take the necessary precautions that can avert the same epidemic in our country. Patients are highly encouraged to check their symptoms with their physicians.

Most doctors advise patients who have already experienced flu to still to get vaccinated, as the yearly strains vary. Aside from this, the erratic weather can contribute to the rise of flu-like diseases, with the rainy season and the cold weather presenting the highest occurrence of such cases.

The Department of Health-Cordillera has already cautioned the public to take precautionary measures as they have seen a spike in influenza-like illness for the first quarter of this year, compared with last year’s numbers. With a record of almost 500 cases more than last year’s in Cordillera alone, this infectious disease should be a health priority for Filipinos.