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JOUSTING WITH COLDS AND THE FLU

By Raphael Curtis

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JOUSTING WITH COLDS AND THE FLU

COLDS:

In most parts of the country, fall arrives with a burst of beautiful foliage, startling colors and just enough chill in the air to remind us that the time for T-shirts and shorts, bikinis, sunning at the beach, picnics in the park, back yard cookouts, and long after-dark walks has passed.

The crisp air can be energizing and gives everybody a chance to dress-up and show off new fall wardrobes; if you find yourself walking around with your chest pumped up and an extra bit of zip in your step, don’t be surprised. The change of seasons is one nature’s grandest spectacles, and we should take advantage of each and every one of them--it's part of the cycle of life.

But each year as we move toward the last months and the holidays, we should also be aware that Old Man Winter is hovering just around the corner, and the cold and flu season is about to begin.

Nearly all of us will come down with some form of the common cold during the "cold season" - September to May:

  • Runny nose
  • Congestion
  • Sneezing
  • Weakened sense of taste and smell
  • Scratchy throat
  • Cough

Prevention of colds is still difficult but the American Lung Association has some great advice.

While colds account for more doctor visits than any other illness in the United States, colds are usually no more than minor annoyances; typically, they can be treated with over-the-counter remedies or alternative therapies, that have been show to
prevent, relieve or speed recovery.

FLU:

The common cold is usually a minor inconvenience; the flu is an altogether different story. Symptoms to watch for are:

  • Temperature of 101° F or above
  • Cough
  • Muscle aches
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
  • Chills
  • Tiredness
  • Feeling lousy all over

Flu is an infection of the respiratory system caused by the influenza virus, of which there are three types. Type C causes either a mild illness or has no symptoms at all. It does not cause epidemics and does not have the severe public health impact that influenza A and B do.

Type A and B viruses change contantly and the body's natural defenses cannot keep up with the changes. Therefore, most people should get flu shots every year. Again great advice on flu is at the American Lung Association. (ALA) web site.

The ALA website is worth a visit there are a lot of goodies available there. For example the site will help you locate a clinic near your zip code. As the site reminds us "the flu can be fatal." In fact, this season we have been warned that a "deadly new global pandemic of human influenza is inevitable and suffering will be "incalculable," said the head of the U.N. health agency in early November 2004.

"The signs are clear that it (H5N1, as this strain of flu is called) is coming," Lee Jong-wook, director-general of the World Health Organization said, noting that a changed avian flu virus caused the deadly "Spanish" flu pandemic that killed tens of millions of people in 1918-1919.

The influenza pandemic of 1918-1919, for instance, killed more people than the Great War, known today as World War I (WWI), at somewhere between 20 and 40 million people. A Type-A influenza virus, it has been cited as the most devastating epidemic in recorded world history. More people died of influenza in a single year than in four years of the Black Death Bubonic Plague from 1347 to 1351. The influenza of 1918-1919 was a global disaster.

Scientists say that all human influenza viruses arise from avian (bird) viruses. Wild water fowl are natural carriers of influenza and they can spread the virus to domestic birds. Some of these birds avian influenza viruses mutate into strains capable of infecting humans. When they reproduce and spread in humans, they can lead to a pandemic.

The 1918-1919 disaster was followed by the Asian flu pandemic of 1957-1958. Due to advances in medical science that influenza strain was identified and vaccines were developed. The vaccines did not meet the demand, however, and over 1 million people died. About the same number died in the Hong Kong flu epidemic of 1968-1969; again vaccines were developed but were unavailable for large segments of the world population.

Pandemic Infuenza

Because of advances in research and extremely comprehensive defensive measures some scientists argue that the new pandemic we are now dreading might not occur. Click though the pages of the web site that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website and it seems that the nation has been put on a war footing to make sure that grim history does not repeat itself.

 

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