I suspect many of you automatically thought “March” when you read the title of this week’s blog. You may think I’m lamenting over winter and wishing that spring was right around the corner. You’d be partly correct - there are approximately 129 days and 12 hours until we put our boat back in the water. The truth is weather sayings are as colorful as our imagination. Many sayings are based on careful observations and do turn out to be true while others are merely rhymes or beliefs passed down from generation to generation.
The real reason behind my reflection on this phrase is because we have similar rhymes or beliefs in the infection prevention world. In Canada, the sounds of hacking, sneezing and sniffling have been filling the halls of healthcare facilities, workplaces and schools. In fact, in the last 2 weeks of December, >3100 people tested positive for Influenza. That’s a 10-fold increase over the same time last year, and is particularly frightening when you think that only a fraction of people who have the flu actually seek medical treatment and are tested for confirmation. I’ve been tested for the flu once and frankly have absolutely NO intention of ever having another nasal swab in my life. I would far prefer the sinus burn from too much wasabi on my sushi than the pain from a swab being stuck so far up my nose it comes dangerously close to impaling my brain.
The flu strain that seems to be circulating primarily is H3N2. It’s a nasty strain that hits the elderly and other frail people particularly hard. While this year’s flu shot is a good match to the strains circulating, H3N2 has the ability to mutate quickly so while the flu shot may be helping now, it may not be as helpful much later in the flu season. If H3N2 is not bad enough, RSV is also out and about with a vengeance. The symptoms for RSV are very similar to the flu, however this virus’ prime target is children with breathing problems and premature babies.
If you’re looking for how to combat the cold and flu virus, go no further than our educational campaigns such as last month’s Ba-Hum Bug campaign or the numerous Talk Clean To Me blogs that have been written on how to keep colds, the flu and RSV at bay. I’ll also throw in a link to a blog on Norovirus because….it is the “winter vomiting disease”!
While I have not come across any rhymes that support a belief that if a year closes out with high flu numbers, the peak will either wane in the New Year or continue to pile up like the winter snow, I can say that as I write this blog, I have that irritating scratchy feeling in the back of my throat. My ears are a bit achy. My sinuses are filling up and I had a bit of a cough today. Except for the cough I could not hide, I’ve kept my other symptoms to myself. Why? Well, if this is “just” a cold it means I was probably starting to be contagious yesterday and will continue to be contagious for the next 5 to 7 days. If this is the flu (fingers crossed, no fever yet!) the period I’m contagious is the same as if this is a cold. The good news is that I’ve been holed up in my office mostly to myself the last 2 days. Tomorrow, however, is a different story!
PS - I’ll let you know next week if I’m in the group who have the flu but did not seek medical attention!