Avoid the flu...
You wake up, and your head is pounding. You pop some Tylenol and head off to work, thinking it's just a hangover from the wild weekend you had. As the morning progresses, your headache intensifies, your body feels like it's on fire, and your body aches. Your co-workers comment on how horrible you look, but it's probably not half as horrible as you feel. By the next day, you're in bed drinking Nyquil so you can pass out and get some sweet, sweet sleep. Your throat is raw, and by now you're alternating between fever and chills.
A FLU'S LIFE
What happened here? Rewind a couple of days. You're talking to your co-worker John, who just came back from a week's worth of sick days. He seems fine, but meanwhile he's spreading a truckload of germs around the room. Combine that with poor ventilation and closed quarters, and you've got a breeding ground for the influenza virus.
Poor, unaware John. Poor, unsuspecting you. But wait! If you had read this article a couple of days ago, maybe you could have prevented all of this. And then you wouldn't be stuck at home with the horrible flu - you'd be stuck at work with your horrible boss.
There are three types of the influenza virus: type A, B, and C. Type C is relatively mild, causing respiratory illness (which sounds worse than it actually is), or no symptoms at all. Type A and B, on the other hand, can cause influenza epidemics (which sounds better than it actually is). Because viruses mutate from year to year, they can cause worldwide epidemics (called pandemics). That's why it's essential to get a flu shot every year. A cell is invaded with two types of the A virus, thus creating a new strain of virus. Very creepy.
The influenza virus can jump from species to species, most commonly domesticated animals like pigs. Pigs, in turn, can contract the virus from humans and birds, creating a new strain of virus. When a virus can no longer infect humans, they jump to animals and remain there for many human generations, until antibodies (the cells that fight viruses in your system) can no longer recognize them. Then they attack! Sorry, but you try writing an article about the flu.
There have been three (and an almost) pandemics in the 20th century:
How to Avoid the Flu
- 1918 - 1919: Spanish influenza, killed 20 million worldwide
- 1957 - 1958: Asian flu, killed 20,000 in the U.S.
- 1968 - 1969: Hong Kong flu, killed 34,000 in the U.S. and 400,000 more over the years
- May 1997: Hong Kong avian flu scare, where a type A virus jumped from birds to humans (a rarity) - 1.4 million chickens were killed
- Get the flu shot (duh), especially if you have regular contact with people.
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. This doesn't mean a two-second run under the taps - yes, bust out the soap and count to fifteen.
- Keep your hands away from your face to stop the spread of germs. People can touch their face fifteen times in one hour. Betcha didn't know that!
- Take E, A, C and B-complex vitamins and minerals.
- Don't smoke. This paralyzes the cilia, those hair-like cells in the nose and airways that sweep incoming viruses away.
- Use tissues, not cloth. It reduces the spread of bacteria.
- Reduce stress, get seven to nine hours of sleep, and reduce alcohol consumption - all in the name of a healthy immune system.
[ But if you get the flu anyway...Part II of the article. ]