Flu season has yet to reach its peak

Staff photo by Hannah LaClaire Over the counter remedies, including the many offered at CVS, accounted for 58 percent of sales at drugstores across the state last week.

You have a fever, compete with full-body chills and intense muscle aches. Your nose is running. Your head hurts. You are coughing day and night. You have the flu and you are exhausted.

We know the symptoms and can do our best to prepare, but flu season is well underway and does not appear to be going anywhere any time soon.

Flu season officially starts in October and lasts through mid-May, but it reaches its height in the colder, drier winter months.

“The flu is unfortunately still going strong,” said Dr. Patrick Leong, a doctor of osteopathic medicine at Saint Joseph

Hospital.”We thought it was peaking last week,” he said, “but that does not seem to be the case.”

Not only is the influenza virus long lasting this year, but the primary strain, H3N2, is linked to more severity.

According to the weekly surveillance report by the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services, 13 New Hampshire adults have died from the flu this year, with at least one reported in Hillsborough County.

While Influenza-like illnesses accounted for 12.7 percent of the state’s deaths last week, an increase from 9.1 percent the week before, that is still below the 13.3 percent “epidemic threshold” set by the Center for Disease Control. The flu is, however, considered to be “widespread” in 49 states – although it is not considered a “reportable disease” in New Hampshire, so it can be hard to track.

As for why there have been so many flu-related deaths this year, Leong said he did not know.

“We don’t have the data,” he said, adding that it still remains to be seen if the flu strain is stronger than last year.

The flu shot is only 30 percent effective this year, which could be a contributing factor, he said.

But Leong said he still encourages his patients to get the vaccine “as soon as possible,” especially now that it failed to peak as expected and it takes a few weeks to take effect.

Children and the elderly, he cautioned, are especially susceptible.

As for whether the vaccine will actually make you sick?

“We always end up having this discussion,” Leong said. “It’s an inactive virus. If you got sick after, that’s just a coincidence.”

However, if you do decide not to get the flu shot, or you have already had it but are still concerned, Leong advised that patients wash their hands often, avoid touching their faces, use elbows instead of hands when possible, get plenty of rest and drink water when possible.

There also are plenty of over-the-counter remedies to help alleviate flu and flu-like symptoms, although they are by no means cures.

According to the weekly surveillance report, 58 percent of over-the-counter sales from 155 pharmacies statewide were for cough/cold medicines.

Bob Lolley, owner of Medicine World an Holistic Health Center said that one of his best sellers is Oscillococcinum, a homeopathic remedy which he has personally used for 20 years.

“We have had great success with that,” he said, adding that he has seen it mentioned in pharmaceutical literature more and more in recent years.

It is important to catch it early, he said and use when symptoms start.

While they do not offer flu shots or any “cures,” Thieves oil may help ease some of the discomfort associated with the flu, he said. Thieves is a blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus radiata and rosemary essential oils that is said to help support a healthy immune system.

No matter what practices someone prescribes to, whether a believer in the vaccine or not, Leong stressed the importance of calling the doctor as soon as flu symptoms start.

“The medicine is most effective when taken right away,” he said.

Hannah LaClaire can be reached at 594-1243 or hlaclaire@nashuatelegraph.com.