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Get Ready. Get Set. Get Sick.

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(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Dr. Dave Hnida By Dr. Dave Hnida
CBSDenver.com Blogger
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Unfortunately, a lot of Coloradans are ringing in the New Year with coughs, aches, and fever.

The flu has really taken off within the past seven days (thank you holiday travellers, visitors, and party-goers),  with influenza levels being reported officially as “high” or near “widespread.”

Experts say at this point, it’s the worst season since 2009. If you’ve personally got a true case of the flu, you probably don’t even remember how many decades ago 2009 was.

The worst group being nailed: ages 25-64, with a heavy emphasis on those in their 20’s and 30’s. (So if you think you’re young and indestructible… think again).

In fact, the usual percentage of young people making up the flu roster is 30%— this year it has doubled to 60%.

It’s a nasty illness–typically you are feeling pretty good one minute, and the next minute feeling like you can’t get off of the floor.

Typical symptoms: aches, chills, sore throat and runny nose–which then quickly travels to your lungs and makes you feel like your chest is going to explode. Your muscles ache like you just ran a marathon up a 14’er. Twice.

And no, your thermometer is not broken and stuck at 104 degrees.

Influenza is NOT “stomach flu”, although some people, particularly children, may be queasy and have some diarrhea.

The bug usually lasts 7-10 days– usually in bed or filled with naps , and to add insult to injury, leaves you weak for weeks— and prone to pick up new bugs when you re-enter the outside world.

So, I ve just described the misery of the flu. But that’s not the biggest issue. Complications are really what we worry about. As in death or close-to-it.

The main reasons people wind up in the hospital are pneumonia, heart attacks, and stroke. (Influenza, you see,  puts a major league strain on your internal organs.)

What can you do? What should you do?

It’s still not too late to get a flu shot. Sure, I know the stats show last years vaccine was only 60% effective. But I will take 60% over 0%. Plus, even when not fully effective, the vaccine lessens the severity and length of the illness.

Another tidbit– lets say you get sick before you get that flu shot,  or before it can really provide full protection— we do have anti-influenza drugs we get can give to lessen the ravages of the disease, but the one kicker is that they need to be started within 48 hrs of getting sick. We especially recommend thse drugs to people with things such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, etc.

Now, let’s say you think flu vaccines are a waste of time. Or dangerous. Or not that important since you’ve never had the flu in your life.

Well, your call. Forget about making others sick. Being on your back for a week or two. Running the risk of being in the hospital for an unscheduled stay. Or missing a couple of weeks of work.

I wish you well. And also that you feel lucky enough to buy a winning lottery ticket. Life is filled with chances, good and bad.

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