DENVER – It might not alleviate symptoms, but a Facebook app that tracks the flu might at least give you some suggestions on who to blame.
Help, I have the Flu is a new Facebook app that trolls through friends’ profiles looking for keywords such a s sneezing, coughing and vomiting. It also looks at check-ins to doctor’s offices or a pharmacy. The data is aggregated in order to find the culprit who may have passed on the virus.
“Nothing will make you feel better like finding somebody to blame,” the app says.
What do you think? Does knowing the culprit make your feel better about getting sick? Comment below and let us know.
The flu has been spreading fiercely across the United States, with more than half of states reporting widespread activity. The season has started earlier, and cases are more severe than last year, health officials say.
The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu advisory report, which covers the week of December 23 to 29, suggests that 41 states have widespread influenza activity, which was an increase of 31 states from the previous week. The CDC will issue an update on the flu situation Friday.
There have so far been 2,257 hospitalizations associated with laboratory-confirmed flu virus, the CDC report said. Among children, there have been 18 deaths reported during this season.
Dr. David Zich, internal medicine and emergency medicine physician at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago, said this is the worst flu season he’s seen in his 12 years at his hospital, in terms of the concentration of patients.
Zich theorizes that one reason there are so many flu cases is that the heart of the flu season coincided with the December holiday season, meaning many people were already sleep-deprived from parties and were more likely to get sick.
Those who went to gatherings of family or friends may have already begun to feel sick, and spread the virus to others. People are generally contagious the day before symptoms start, and for five days after becoming sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If you haven’t gotten an annual flu vaccine, it’s not too late, doctors say. To further protect yourself, try to avoid anyone who is sneezing and coughing, and wash your hands. Also, exercise and eat healthy foods, Zich said.
Most flu patients should not go to an emergency room, Zich said. They will likely be sent home, as there is very little that can be done for them. A fever as high as 103 degrees Fahrenheit is common in the flu.
Patients with normal flu symptoms should get a lot of rest and take painkillers to help with muscle aches, Zich said. “In five to seven days, you’re going to be feeling yourself again,” he said.
But there are scenarios in which going to a hospital is necessary. If a patient is short of breath, or can’t keep fluids down because of nausea, these are signs of a problem that needs immediate attention, as vomiting or sweating from fever can lead to dehydration, Zich said.
An otherwise healthy person will not get much benefit from antiviral medications designed to treat symptoms that the flu causes, Zich said. The side effects from both oseltamivir (Tamiflu) and zanamivir (Relenza) include nausea.
The CDC recommends that people who have a higher risk of complications from the flu receive antiviral treatment. These include people with chronic illnesses such as pulmonary, cardiovascular and neurological conditions, as well as anyone 65 years and older and children under age 2.
What many people don’t know is that the flu vaccine becomes less effective as you get older or develop other medical problems, Zich said. The flu shot relies on the body’s antibodies against the flu, so if the immune system is already compromised, it will not work as well.