Autumn is now firmly established as we are reminded by the mantles of dry leaves, which cover streets and pavements with a yellow-ocher carpet, the persistent rains and the first cases of influenza.
Infectious disease specialists predict that 4-6 million will be affected in Italy. Plus 8-10 caused by other respiratory viruses. There are four viral agents that will circulate, two of type A (H1N1 and H3N2) and two of type B (B / Victoria and B / Yamagata). And the special observed naturally remains the Sars CoV-2. The great wave of influenza is expected between late November and early December, but the first cases (from type A / H3N2 viruses) have already been isolated in northern Italy and Lazio. Given the situation, the elderly and frail patients should hurry to get the vaccine, the only real defense weapon. The Ministry of Health gave the green light to the simultaneous double vaccination, one against Covid-19 and one against flu.
«Last year – recalls the virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco, medical director of the Galeazzi Orthopedic Institute in Milan – there has been a collapse in cases of flu (about 1/3 of those of the previous year), due to the lockdowns, the mask and the spacing. Measures which, of course, also protect against all other respiratory viruses. But, now, with the resumption of all indoor activities, the children in the classroom, the people in the office, the movements on public transport and travel, even the classic seasonal viruses, such as the flu, could raise their heads “. The flu virus is transmitted through droplets emitted by coughing, sneezing and talking. Influenza prevention also passes through hygiene etiquette that the European Center for Disease Control and Prevention summarizes in four recommendations: wash your hands often or disinfect them with alcoholic gels; cover nose and mouth when sneezing, preferably in the crook of the elbow or in a disposable handkerchief to be discarded immediately; staying home in the presence of a febrile respiratory disease; wear the face mask in the presence of flu symptoms, when in contact with other people indoors.
People with the flu generally have at least one respiratory symptom (congestion and increased nasal discharge, sneezing, sore throat, cough) and a sharp rise in temperature, over 38 °. In addition, systemic symptoms such as chills, fatigue, headache, muscle and bone pains may be present. Vomiting and diarrhea are also common in children. These symptoms can all be present in case of too Covid, which in addition can also cause alterations in taste and loss of smell. In children, the virus generally has very attenuated forms. Keep in mind that with the arrival of the “Delta Plus” variant, the pandemic could have a flashback, thanks to the cold.
TO STAY AT HOME
“In the presence of a febrile cold, as Covid has taught us well – he explains Claudio Cricelli, president of the Italian Society of General Medicine – it is advisable not to move from home and to limit contacts even with family members. It is good to warn the doctor who, in case of doubt, will advise to swab. Especially since the Delta variant, the one currently prevalent in Italy, has taken on “flu-like” characteristics, which make it difficult to distinguish from the flu ».
But what to do if, despite all the preventive measures, you get the flu? «The therapy – adds Pregliasco – is aimed at relieving symptoms, with self-medication anti-fever drugs that relieve joint and muscle pain and that resolve or reduce nasal congestion. Adequate hydration and humidification of the rooms is recommended. No to smoking and alcohol. In children it is good to avoid aspirin, while fever and pain can be controlled by paracetamol. The use of antibiotics in the flu is completely useless if not harmful ». Unless of course the doctor prescribes them as in case of bacterial complications (bronchitis or pneumonia). Antiviral drugs are also available, effective on both influenza A and B viruses (zanamivir and oseltamivir) which should be taken within the first 48 hours of the onset of the disease to be effective. To be reserved for those most at risk. But the best defense weapon remains the vaccine, anti-influenza and also anti-pneumococcal. The terror of Covid, engendered by the pandemic still in progress, must not make us forget that even the flu, especially in the elderly and frail, can give very challenging problems. It is estimated that in our country every year 8-10 thousand people die from complications related to flu, pneumonia, heart attack.
In the first two weeks after the flu, the risk of heart attack increases by 3-5 times and that of stroke by 2-3 times in the over 65s. Among the less serious but frequent complications, sinusitis and otiti. The categories most at risk are the elderly, the chronically ill (those suffering from asthma, COPD, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases). Pregnant women, who can get vaccinated in any trimester and while breastfeeding, should also be particularly careful. Protecting yourself against the flu also has social implications, because it avoids the tragic clogging of emergency rooms that occurs every year at the peak of the season. Since last year, the flu vaccine has also been offered free of charge to the age group between 60 and 64 years (previously only to the over 65) and to fragile. It is also recommended for all children between 6 months and 6 years old. Anyone can undergo this vaccination, with the aim of not getting sick and facilitating the differential diagnosis between Covid and flu. The vaccine as well as by the family doctor, from this year can also be done in pharmacies.
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