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Is your respiratory sickness the flu?

By Judy Reed

The latest Michigan Flu Focus, a weekly surveillance report from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services shows that at the end of 2018, influenza was increasing in regions throughout Michigan, and they have raised our flu code from “local” to “regional.” The main strain predominating is influenza A/H1N1. 

The Centers for Disease Control shows the activity level of influenza like activity as moderate (based on the number of patient visits to health care providers).

But influenza isn’t the only type of respiratory illness doctors are seeing. According to Physicians with American Family Care (AFC), they are also seeing patients suffering from either a cold or winter mystery virus (adenovirus) that looks a like flu. The AFC doctors explain to families that each is a respiratory virus but the flu stands out in several ways, like the symptoms coming on abruptly and the possibility to turn fatal.

Below is a chart to help you decide if your illness is the flu, a cold, or an adenovirus.

 Is it flu, a cold or an adenovirus?

Signs and Symptoms Influenza Cold Adenovirus
Symptom Onset Abrupt Gradual Gradual
Fever Usual Rare Common
Aches Usual Slight Sometimes
Chills Fairly common Uncommon Sometimes
Fatigue Usual Sometimes Sometimes
Sneezing Sometimes Common Common
Stuffy nose Sometimes Common Common
Sore throat Sometimes Common Common
Chest discomfort, cough Common Mild to moderate Sometimes
Headache Common Rare Sometimes

In addition to getting a flu shot, AFC physicians advise taking a few every day preventive measures to boost your chances of avoiding the flu (and other viruses).

Five habits that help you prevent the flu:

1.  Avoid sharing pens. Whether at work or signing a credit card receipt at a store, never pick up a public pen because they’re covered with other people’s germs. Keep a pen handy for any situation that could pop up.

2.  Knuckle it.  When using a debit card machine, get into the habit of punching in your card pin with a knuckle instead of a fingertip. This way if you rub your eye or mouth with your fingertip, you’re not transferring germs. 

3.  Play it safe at the pump. Drivers must get gas for their vehicles no matter what, sick or not. Protect yourself at the pump by grabbing a paper towel before picking up the gas nozzle. You can also use the paper towel as a barrier when punching in your debit/credit card info.  

4. Shake and Wash. People are more germ-conscious these days so avoiding a handshake is not as rude as once thought, especially during flu season.  If you must do it, wash or sanitize with your hands immediately. 

5. Hands off, please!  You are constantly using either your phone or computer tablet to show friends and coworkers pictures or videos. This means other people are putting their germs on something you are constantly touching. Get into the habit of wiping your phone down with a disinfecting wipe to cut down on spreading germs. OR just text your friends photos and videos!   

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