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Update on the 2018 Influenza Virus

For more on health, see my articles on health and nutrition at WindInMyFace.com.

Back in January I posted an off-topic editorial, Heads Up: 2017/2018 Flu Worst in a Decade or More, Killing Young and Old. I strongly recommend reading that post—this is no ordinary flu this year, and pneumonia can be very serious, very fast (personal experience, 3 times)—and be instigated by the flu.

Do NOT assume the flu cannot kill you quickly. Also, the already very bad H3N2 influenza variant out there could mutate into something 1000 times more deadly—no one can see that coming or say that it won’t happen. Get your flu shot, it is still not too late given how the disease is still killing people.

...

Here is one tragic story of a healthy adult succumbing quickly:

The Deadly Flu No One Saw Coming

Actually, the recent Smithsonian had a fascinating article on the 1918 killer flu, including how the US government suppressed the truth and made matters much worse, and millions died. Along with an article on a potential universal flu vaccine.

Contrary to the WSJ, plenty of people have seen it coming in general—a 1918 type variant is only a matter of time. Fortunately, it seems that 2018 is not the year in spite of it being the 100th year anniversary.

From the WSJ article:

Thousands of people have been treated at hospitals, including seemingly healthy adults, marking the worst season in a decade.

Heather Holland, a second-grade teacher, came home feeling a little sick on the last Monday in January. “It just sounded like her throat was scratchy,” said her husband, Frank Holland, a discomfort easy to ignore at first for a working mother. Over the next days, she made seemingly inconsequential decisions, including skipping a medicine because of the cost.

Then her symptoms suddenly worsened, eventually sending Ms. Holland, 38 years old, to the hospital, on the brink of death.

...

On Saturday night, after blood tests showed she had sepsis, an extreme complication of infections, she was put on dialysis, Mr. Holland said. He and other family members rubbed her hands and feet to warm them. Her circulation, he said, “was going by the wayside.”

Doctors told the family that Ms. Holland’s recovery was looking unlikely. On Sunday morning, Mr. Holland called his mother to bring the couple’s children.

Ms. Holland opened her eyes to look at her young boy and girl. “She’d hold them open as long as she could, then she’d close them, then open them again a little bit,” he said. “That was her way of telling them goodbye.”

She died soon after, on Feb. 4, six days after coming home from school with a scratchy throat.

The 1918 flu killed people in 2 days or so. But 6 days with the flue and it’s all over—pretty damn scary. Today I went out for various errands—I washed my hands 3 times and used hand sanitizer 3 times and refused to shake hands with anyone—take it seriously like that and the disease has one less vector by which to spread.

Physician James A writes:

Nice write up on the dangers of flu. Try to have a stock of Tamiflu at your house. Taken during the prodrome, it can really help.

DIGLLOYD: I kept some for years after the last nasty flu outbreak, fortunately never needed, but this seems like sound advice to me: if a bad flu strain breaks out, it will be impossible to obtain for all but a few.

Face Masks

Wearing a mask during a dusty double century

Jeff K writes:

You make an important point about this flu.

I was nailed last year, in April, after traveling through five countries in 2 months, 3 in Europe and two in Africa. I live in South Africa.

This flu makes you exceptionally weak and recovery takes way longer than expected. It's really frightening. People should be wearing masks, despite the circumspection about covering faces in some parts of the world.

Beme did a thoughtful video about this issue: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dGqZmvDElA

DIGLLOYD: I’m not clear on how a face mask that is not a HEPA filter and does not seal around the entire face can block entry of a virus that might be 10 microns or smaller, let alone fully block even large dust particles. But obviously it could stop sneezes and coughs from spreading aerosolized virus particles throughout the air and that is a major benefit.

The masks I’ve seen the Japanese wearing can’t be very effective (entry), as far as I can tell. But there is no discounting the placebo effect, and preventing aerosolized virus particle emission by blocking sneezing/coughing via a mask should greatly reduce transmission.

Obviously a respirator mask like this is not going to be too attractive or comfortable, but maybe a mask like the 3M Particulate Respirator would work reasonably well, but a cool flow valve and N100 rating makes sense to me—I’m going to try the 3M Particulate Respirator 8233 N100 to see if it is compatible with cycling.

The AMSTON N95 with charcoal filtration looks good also, claiming to seal down to 0.3 microns. It’s annoying that many masks do not specify to what particle size they filter. See also the 3M web site.

We have the unusual combination of flu season going strong and allergy season ramping up big time after two weeks of better-than-summer weather (not too hot but nicely warm, grass is already two feet tall in places). Allergies irritate sinuses and lungs and can predispose to infection by things like the flu. Hence a mask worn for allergies could reduce the chance of the flu.

Asthma and cycling: I wore a mask for 50 miles that sealed off my face during the Southern Inyo Double Century last March, for dust off Owens Lake. Just pulling it down, I could immediately smell the dust, so obviously it has some beneficial effect. All the other riders were inhaling fine dust with nasty metals and things like arsenic into their lungs. The year prior it was less windy and I did not wear a mask that year and my lungs were irritated with a mild cough when done—small airway impairment.

I found that the metal nose clip on the mask I am wearing in the picture below was critical for good sealing as shown below. Those silly stretch-over-face masks I see people wearing cannot possibly seal off that nose area when stretched over like that.

Southern Owens Lake: event day, I was spattered by gravel for some miles due to very high winds, and all but blown off the road
f2.8 @ 1/1700 sec, ISO 20; 2017-04-01 09:20:58
iPhone 7 Plus + iPhone 7 Plus back dual camera 6.6mm f/2.8 @ 57mm equiv (6.6mm)

[low-res image for bot]

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