Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center
Taking the the flu seriously

Taking this flu season seriously

CEO Minute: Brent Magers

Flu Season

As we all know, Texas Tech Physicians and local hospitals are experiencing a busy influenza or flu season. It has hit many of our employees and their families. I hope that you and your family are not one of them. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. While I will leave it to our infectious disease experts (which I am not one) to explain the illness in detail, suffice it to say that it can cause mild to severe illness, which in some cases, includes hospitalization or even death. Some populations, such as older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.

According to the experts, the best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. I do, and it’s a wonderful thing that our employer makes obtaining flu shots easy. We also should practice a good hand washing technique. Hand washing always is important and shouldn’t be neglected whether we are in or out of flu season. If you are to take a multiple-choice test, and are asked about controlling infection, if hand washing is one of the answers, take it. You may always be right.

Try singing Happy Birthday to yourself while you wash your hands. You may get some strange looks if you sing it out loud, but this will help time how long you should wash your hands. And, of course, use plenty of soap and water.

Another excellent practice is to cover one’s mouth if coughing or sneezing. Again, most experts say that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Have you seen the TV commercial where a person is coughing, and it creates a blue cloud of pathogens? That’s an attention getter.

“Flu” by Gina Kolata is about the catastrophic flu pandemic of 1918 and makes the science behind flu understanding to the lay reader. There were intriguing bits of information about how the flu spreads. Yet, certain questions about the flu still have not been answered. The 1918 pandemic, 100 years ago, killed somewhere between 20 million to 100 million people. That is a huge range, but record keeping in 1918 is not what it is today.

The takeaway from this column is two-fold: 

1.) It is at times like this that the critical nature of our role as a health care provider in our community comes to the forefront.

2.) Don’t trifle with the flu— it is serious business, and we should do everything within our power to prevent its spread and treat it once it is diagnosed.