Saturday, June 27, 2015

Confession of Flu Virus

Whom we love  to  infect, the  surprising places we lurk  in  your home, and how we make you feel so crummy.
Think  we're  just a cold? Ha! Underestimate  us  at  your  peril.  Each year  on  average, we send  200,000 people  to  the hospital  and have a  hand  in  killing at  least  23,000 (usually  if  they  also  develop com­ plications such  as  pneumonia). Not to  brag,  but  we  are strong  enough  to render  even a totally  normal, healthy person  gravely  ill.
We dread nothing  more than the flu vaccIne. It's  the  best  way  to  ensure  that we can't  wreak havoc. A vaccine  pro­ vides  your  immune  system  with NSA-level  intelligence  to  identify and  eradicate us. This season, we're especially  nervous-there's  a  new quadrivalent vaccine  that protects against  four  flu  strains  instead  of  the usual  three. There's  a  new  vaccine for  people who  are  allergic  to  eggs and, once  again,  an  extra-strength vcrsion  for  scnior  citizcns. Yikcs.
We're terrified of products labeled  "disinfectant." This means  they've  been  tested  for their  ability  to  kill  viruses  (like  me). Cleaning  products  labeled sanitizer have  to  kill  only  bacteria.  Disinfec­ tants  can  take  a few  minutes  to  kid in,  so  if  you  spray  one  on  a  surfacc and  immediately  wipe  it  off, chances are some  of  us  viruses  will survivc  .
Merely  breathing spreads us. You  don't  have  to  sneeze or  cough. A single breath can  harbor thousands of us-and  we  can  infect  other people  a  full 24  hours  before you exhibit  symptoms.
If  you're obese,  we can do a real number  on you. We're up to three  times  more likely to  kill  someone  who  is  obese  than  of normal  weight. If  extra  pounds  are squeezing  your lungs,  it's harder to  breathe  and fight us off. Extra wcight may  make  the flu  shot  less effective too.  Score!
You  do us  a big  favor when you're "too  busy"to take  a sick  day. When you  drag  yourself  into  the office, you  spread  us  to  your coworkers  (awesome)  and  may make  it  harder  for  your  body to fight us, so you stay  sick  longer ',I'l (more  awesome). If  everyone  had access to  just  one  paid  sick day for the fiu, it  could  reduce  cases  by  as much  as 25  percent! (Shudder!)
A good hair day for  you is  a good  day  for  us  loo. When there's less  moisture in the air,  we  can  waft  around  a  little longer,  which  gives  us  a better chance  to  infect  people.
Thanks for skimping on hand washing. Next  to  the  flu  vaccine, good  hand hygiene is  one  of  your  best  defenses against us. We recently  heard  that about 10  percent  of  people  don't wash their  hands  before  leaving  the restroom,  and  more  than 20  percent use  water but no  soap. Either  way, it's  all  good, If  we  linger  on  your hands and  then you  touch  your eyes, nose, or mouth (trust us,  you  do this a  lot),  we  get  easy  access.
Is  that Tamiflu l ou're taking?  Oh,  no. Antiviral drugs  are  our  biggest enemy  once  we've succeeded  in infecting  you. The drugs  effectively castrate  us. They thwart  our  ability to keep reproducing,  which means they can  shorten  the  length  of your  illness.  Lucky for us, though, there's  a  brief ideal  window  in which to  use these  medications. They are  most effective  if  you  take them within the  first 48  hours of having flu  symptoms.  If  you  wait too long,  we  can  still  run  rampant.

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