Entries in Flu (47)


Influenza Sorbet: Cold Remedy Comes in Dessert Form

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- It has been a record flu season so far, and people are doing whatever they can to avoid coming down with the ailment.  But what can you do if you already have it?

Enter Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams.  The Ohio-based company’s Influenza Sorbet won’t cure the flu, but it will definitely make you feel better, said Jeni Britton Bauer, the company’s founder and president.

The Influenza Sorbet contains honey, ginger, orange juice and lemon juice.  And if that weren’t enough, it also has Maker’s Mark bourbon and cayenne pepper.

The result is a soothing sorbet with kick.  It might not be what the doctor ordered, but Bauer said it works.

“My mother and grandmother made something very similar to that as a drink when I was a kid, even with the whiskey,” Bauer said on Sunday.  “Whiskey, honey and lemon juice and that was our cough medicine and they would thin it out and make it into a hot drink.”

Her company makes ice cream, but she got the idea to add the sorbet to her product line in 2004.

“When the flu hit in 2004, it was like supposed to be the worst flu since 1918 and it was like all over the news people were dying from it.  It was horrible and I thought, ‘Gosh, I could do this sorbet,’” she recalled.

The sorbet also contains pectin, which coats the throat.  The honey lubricates the throat and the cayenne pepper helps clear the nasal passages, she added.

The result is a product that soothes irritated throats and relieves scratchiness, helping sufferers get needed sleep, she said.

With the severity of this flu season, interest in the Influenza Sorbet is soaring, Bauer said, but insists the sorbet is more than just a home remedy -- it tastes good, too.

“It is really delicious,” she said.  “The cayenne doesn’t have flavor, it just has the kick, the physical property of the heat, and then all of the other ingredients are just so perfect together.  You can just imagine it as a cocktail.  A whiskey sour plus ginger."

“All those things go together so well and it really tastes great,” said Bauer, adding that she had customers who buy it when it’s available and store it in their freezers so they can have it during the summer.

Jeni’s Influenza Sorbet will be available through February and into March.  It retails for $12 per pint and is sold at all Jeni’s stores in Columbus, Ohio, Cleveland and Nashville, Tenn., as well as on the company’s website.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Sundance, Inauguration Organizers Brace for Flu

Hemera/Thinkstock(PARK CITY, Utah) -- This weekend will be big for movie buffs, football fans and Barack Obama. But as Americans flock to the Sundance Film Festival, the NFL playoffs and the Presidential Inauguration, the weekend could also be big for the flu.

About 35,000 Americans have been sickened by an early and nasty wave of influenza, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And while the outbreak appears to be abating, flu activity is still widespread.

"Our biggest concern is people coming in asymptomatic but carrying the virus," said Rob Allen, chief executive officer of Park City Hospital in Park City, Utah, the home of Sundance.

Utah is one of 33 states reporting high levels of influenza activity. And Park City, home to roughly 40,000 people, will more than double its population this weekend as actors, director, producers and fans fill its hotels, restaurants and theaters.

"We have 50,000 people coming in, potentially bringing with them flu from their areas," said Allen, who partnered with local businesses to distribute hand sanitizer as visitors arrive. "If they practice good hand hygiene, hopefully they won't spread it so we can keep it isolated."

The flu virus spreads through microscopic respiratory droplets that travel six feet in a cough or a sneeze and survive on skin and other surfaces.

"And influenza can be spread by someone who's not yet sick," said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn. "They'll become sick tomorrow, but today they're emitting the virus as they exhale."

The best protection against the flu, according to the CDC, is the flu shot. This year's vaccine guards against three widespread strains of the virus and is 62 percent effective.

"We recognize that the vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but it's the foundation on which all other protection is built," said Schaffer.

Frequent hand washing and the use of hand sanitizer can also guard against the virus. The Georgia Dome -- home of the Atlanta Falcons and Sunday's National Football Conference championship football game -- has hand sanitizer pumps at every entry gate.

"That's standard policy for us," said Jason Kirksey, a spokesman for the 70,000-seat stadium. "With any event we have here, the safety and security of our fans is our number one priority, and that includes protection from any kind of airborne disease."

But football fans should still fight the urge to high-five and hug, according to Schaffner.

"School children are now taught that during an influenza outbreak, handshakes are out," he said, describing how flu-fearing students are bumping elbows in lieu of high-fives. "But at exciting and emotional events, it's hard to resist. So get vaccinated and try not to hug someone who's coughing or sneezing."

Sunday's Presidential Inauguration is expected to draw 800,000 people to Washington, D.C., where the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will man medical stations along the National Mall.

"Our advice for the inauguration is the same advice for a day-to-day basis," said HHS spokeswoman Elleen Kane. "Make sure you get the flu shot; if you cough or sneeze, do it into your elbow; wash your hands frequently and keep them away from your nose and mouth; and if you feel sick, stay home."

"It's pretty hard to protect yourself from the flu when you are in a crowd," said ABC News' chief health and medical editor Dr. Richard Besser. "Sure, you can use hand sanitizer to clean your hands. But when the person next to you lets go with a big sneeze or a cough, you are sunk."

And it's not just the crowded events, according to Schaffner. "It's the travel to and from the events," he said, describing how packed airplanes and busy airports can teem with germs. "There's only so much you can do when you're in 13C and someone's sneezing in 13B. It's an unlucky row."

So while the weekend will be big, it's not worth risking the health of those around you, according to Besser.

"If you have a fever or you are just getting over the flu, stay home," he said. "I know it's hard to do when it's an event you've really been waiting for, but it's the right thing to do."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Flu Outbreak Leads to High-Five Ban in New York City

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- In an effort to combat the spread of the flu, a kiddie league in New York City has banned players from giving high-fives at soccer games.

The rule comes in the wake of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's decision to declare a statewide public health emergency because of the potentially deadly virus.

The ban was recommended by Dr. Valerie Parkas, who is not only the Manhattan Soccer Club president, but an infectious disease specialist at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, reports WCBS-TV.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Flu Epidemic Waning but Could Still Make Comeback

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said flu cases had waned in recent weeks but that the cold-weather virus could still make a comeback before the end of the season.

"It's not surprising," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in teleconference last Friday.  "Influenza ebbs and flows during the flu season.  The only thing predictable about the flu is that it is unpredictable."

Flu cases have been recorded in 47 states so far this year.  But only 24 states reported high flu activity levels in the first week of January compared with the 29 that reported high flu activity in the last week of December.  Another 16 states reported moderate levels of activity during the same week in January, while five reported low levels and one reported minimal levels.

Hospitals in many areas of the country have said they've been overwhelmed by this year's epidemic, which came on hard, fast and early.  The disease prompted a public health emergency in Boston, where health officials said last week that 700 people had been diagnosed with the infectious respiratory disease, and 18 had died from flu-related complications in the state.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a public health emergency at the end of last week, allowing pharmacists to administer vaccines to patients six months to 18 years old.  The executive order suspended a state law that limited immunizations to people older than 18.

The CDC urged all Americans to get flu shots if they hadn't already.  Heightened demand has caused some providers to run out of the vaccine, but officials said there was still plenty to go around.  They encouraged people to call ahead before heading out to a local clinic to get immunized.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical correspondent, said this could be the worst flu epidemic in a decade, but that it's not too late to protect yourself from the virus.

"You have to think about an anti-viral, especially if you're elderly, a young child, a pregnant woman," Besser said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


City Under Flu Crisis: 48 Hours in Boston's Massive Flu Outbreak

Jeffrey Hamilton/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Little Cassie Colice fought off another coughing fit as she sat in the emergency room at Boston Children's Hospital with her mother. Despite getting a flu shot this season, doctors believed the toddler was suffering from the flu.

"She's gone from having what you think for a toddler is a common cold to having difficulty breathing, coughing up a lot of mucus, terribly lethargic, no appetite," said Cassie's mother, Meghan Moriarty. "It just makes me feel bad that she can't tell me."

ABC's Nightline spent the last 48 hours documenting a city in crisis from a raging flu epidemic, from patients who already have it to those who are taking measures to avoid it and the doctors who are battling the outbreak.

Moriarty was very concerned because Cassie, who isn't even 2 years old yet, was born prematurely, putting her in the highest risk category for serious complications from the flu. So doctors didn't waste time testing Cassie for flu. They admitted her immediately.

"She has a fever and cough, she's dehydrated, the degree of lethargy, the repertory rate makes me worry that she has a serious infection," said Dr. Anne Stack.

Once admitted, Cassie and her mother realized they had lots of company.

"We are at full capacity," Stack said. "The hospital is essentially completely full."

And it was not just Children's Hospital -- all of Boston's world-famous hospitals are operating on overdrive. There have been more than 750 confirmed flu cases so far this season in Boston, more than 10 times the 70 cases from this time last year.

"I have been here for 19 years," said Dr. Ron Walls of Brigham and Women's Hospital. "I don't remember seeing anything like this."

At Massachusetts General Hospital, patient Shane Wells feared his laundry list of flu-like symptoms was making him another one of Boston's latest statistics. Despite getting the flu shot, the 41-year-old was suffering from chills, sweats and incessant cough.

"The aches and pains, the hot, the cold," he said. "[I'm] trying to get back to work because if you don't work you can't pay the bills."

Many people assume they have the flu without getting tested. But when Wells' lab tests came back, the results were positive for flu. There was little doctors could do for him. He had passed the 48-hour window when prescription medication could effectively treat the virus.

"You ought to be wearing a mask when you are in public," Dr. Stuart Harris told Wells. "Try to keep away from people, wash your hands all the time."

Back at Children's Hospital, Cassie's chest X-ray showed her lungs were full of mucus. She was also dehydrated and had low oxygen levels in her blood, so doctors admitted her to stay at the hospital overnight.

Just down the hall from Cassie was 4-month-old Cayson Page, who was born with congenital heart disease. For children like Cayson, the flu can be a matter of life or death.

"Our main concern is that this child doesn't have a lot of reserve," Dr. Stack said. "So even a little bit of illness can tip someone like this over."

Cayson was discharged from the hospital, but after repeatedly vomiting, his parents, James Page and Elizabeth Graul, brought him back to the ER. It was an exhausting and scary process, and the Pages feared their son would become another Boston statistic.

"The main thing that worries me is just how many deaths have happened from [the flu]," Graul said. "With his heart disease, he gets really sick just off a simple cold and then I don't even want to know what the flu would do to him."

At Brigham and Women's Hospital, a code amber alert sounded.

"It is basically a disaster notification that we use when we have a large number of things to deal with," Dr. Walls said. "It freezes the staff so basically no one is going to be allowed to go home."

In one afternoon, Walls' section of the ER saw eight patients, more than four times what they typically see this time of year.

"The big difference I think that I've seen this year is that there is so many more people with it," Walls said. "So we talk about the virulence of the flu, like how fast can it get from me to you and from you to someone else. This flu seems to have spread from really rapidly through large, large numbers of people."

One of his biggest concerns was elderly patients, who are also at high risk of complications from the flu. Eighteen people over age 65 have already died from the flu in Massachusetts.

Many doctors still agree that the best weapon of defense against the flu is to get a flu shot. An East Boston neighborhood health center said they have given 20,000 flu shots this season and more than 700 alone on Saturday.

"We don't usually have to do big clinics like this but when there's a need, particularly like this when the flu is so severe, we really want to vaccinate people, we're happy to do this," said Dr. Catherine Silva, a local primary care physician.

Concerned parent Tequila Cunningham, who was waiting for her flu shot at the health center, said she wasn't taking any chances.

"There has been four episodes of kids getting sick in their school," she said. "I feel like the flu shot and some vitamin C and they're going to be great."

On Sunday, Cassie was still at Children's Hospital and had been moved into intensive care. She had to have mucus drained from her lungs but was slowly starting to improve.

"I think we might be able to get her home soon," Meghan Moriarty said.

But the ordeal has taken its toll and Cassie's mother was exhausted.

"I actually fainted last night," she said. "I forgot to feed myself."

But after 24 hours, Mass General patient Shane Wells, who felt awful after being discharged, said he was starting to feel a lot better.

"I pretty much feel 80 percent," he said. "I'll make it back to work tomorrow, I'm feeling good now. I'll get a good night's sleep, keep taking my medicine and I think I'll be all right."

Boston-area hospitals reported a decline in flu admissions over the weekend, suggesting things are looking up in a city that is sick of being sick.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


'Unpredictable' Flu Spreads to 47 States, but Might Have Peaked in Some Areas

Digital Vision/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The flu has spread to 47 states, making the outbreak an epidemic. But there are some early indicators that the number of flu cases may have peaked in some parts of the country, federal health officials said.

Five fewer states reported high flu activity levels in the first week of January than the 29 that reported high activity levels in the last week of December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly flu report. This week, 24 states reported high illness levels, 16 reported moderate levels, five reported low levels and one reported minimal levels, suggesting that the flu season peaked in the last week of December.

Despite the glimmer of good news, CDC officials said the virus could still make a comeback in the final weeks of the season and urged Americans to make sure they get flu shots.

"It's not surprising. Influenza ebbs and flows during the flu season," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, said in a Friday morning teleconference. "The only thing predictable about the flu is that it is unpredictable."

An early CDC study found this year's vaccine had an efficacy of 62 percent, making the preventive shot only moderately effective.

Although 130 million dosages of the vaccine were distributed, there have been reports of spot shortages across the country.

A Rite Aid store in Brooklyn, N.Y., told ABC News Radio it may not have enough dosages to last through the heightened weekend demand.

With a few phone calls or some online research, officials said people seeking the vaccine should be able to find a provider within a relatively close distance of their homes.

One helpful online tool is the HealthMap Vaccine Finder, which includes 40,000 locations across the United States and allows users to enter their ZIP codes to find a nearby provider of the flu vaccine.

"We don't know when this is going to end. This could be the worst flu in a decade," said Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor.

When deciding whether to stay home from work or seek medical attention, Besser said there is a key difference between the common cold and influenza.

"If you think about a cold, it usually affects you from the neck up -- congestion, sinus fullness, sore throat," Besser said. "But the flu is going to affect your whole body. You're going to feel achy all over."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Alternative Home Remedies That Can Help You Fight the Flu

Zoonar/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- If you’re home sick with the flu, you may be able to find some relief by boosting traditional treatments with natural ingredients that can be found in a local vitamin store.

Some studies show that elderberry pills or extract can shorten the duration of flu symptoms in adults. The pills and extract can also help ease swollen sinuses.

In the spice aisle at the supermarket, turmeric, a popular Indian spice, appears to have antiviral properties.

Curcumin, a substance found in the turmeric root, is believed to help prevent viruses from spreading in your body.

And when it comes to chicken soup, your mother may have been on to something. Scientific studies have shown that the homemade remedy can help clear up congestion.

One prominent journal reported that chicken soup actually affected the body’s white blood cells. The journal said it held them back from creating congestion in the body, which means less coughing and sneezing. And it’s not something seen with any other soup.

Experts cautioned that complimentary treatments were no substitute for traditional medicine.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Flu Outbreak Causes Oklahoma School District to Cancel Classes

Hemera/Thinkstock(TULSA, Okla.) -- The flu outbreak that's sweeping the nation has caused one school district in Oklahoma to cancel classes as 25 percent of the student body is ill.

On Thursday, the Kiefer public school district announced they would cancel Friday's classes to give students the weekend to rest, as nearly 150 of the 650 students there are suffering from the flu.

Kiefer, located 30 minutes south of Tulsa, will use Friday's day off to clean all of the water fountains, lockers, desks and chairs in the school district, according to ABC News affiliate KTUL-TV.

Eight people have died of flu in Oklahoma since Sept. 30, according to the Oklahoma Department of Health.  The state's health department says that 92 new patients were admitted to hospitals with it between Jan. 2 to Jan. 8.

The fight against the flu has quickly become an uphill battle for doctors across the U.S. Doctors and hospitals are running low on flu shots as they cannot keep up with the demand.

"This is a true national shortage," Randy Tartacoff, a doctor at Holy Name Hospital in Teaneck, N.J., told ABC News.  

"Today, we could be getting 30 doses in and that could be sufficient, but that can be gone in 30 minutes," Cheryl Fattibene, a nurse at CVS Minutes Clinic in Bryn Mawr, Pa., said.

Pharmacists are also struggling to fill prescription orders.  "Right now we're getting 24 boxes of Tamiflu, but we're getting 40 or 50 prescriptions," said Andy Komuves, a pharmacist in Dallas.

Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston was forced to go on Amber Alert Thursday, forcing an all-hands-on-deck situation as flu patients flooded the emergency room.

"…People who are going off shift will not be allowed to go home until after we've completely evaluated what we need," Dr. Ron Wells said.

Wells said he has never seen an outbreak as severe as this during his 19-year career.  "I would say over the last week to 10 days, it's been pretty consistently crazy, dramatically worse than what we've seen in prior years," he said.

On Wednesday, Boston declared a public health emergency, with the city's hospitals counting about 1,500 emergency room visits since December by people with flu-like symptoms.  Flu is being blamed for at least 18 deaths in Massachusetts.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


Less Flu in Connecticut? CDC Says Looks Can Be Deceiving

CDC(WASHINGTON) -- Connecticut is a lone green state in a sea of red, but we’re not talking politics.  

Connecticut shows up on a map as a state with minimal flu-like illness, surrounded by states with high flu-like activity levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The agency has just issued its Influenza Surveillance Report, or ILINet, for the last week of December.

But if you’re worried about the flu, that’s not a reason to move to Hartford, health professionals say.  Connecticut is far from flu-free, and CDC data aren’t perfect.

“Germs don’t respect state lines,” said ABC News Chief Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.  He said Connecticut certainly didn’t escape the flu just because other states have had higher percentages of outpatient office visits.

It’s possible that Connecticut’s numbers were artificially deflated because of students’ winter break, said William Gerrish, a spokesman for the Connecticut Department of Public Health.  College student health centers account for a large percentage of flu reports in the state.

“Unfortunately, these student health centers have been essentially closed during the long holiday break, resulting in an artificially low statewide ILINet activity level,” he said.

Gerrish also said that a separate flu map, which includes only laboratory-confirmed flu cases, shows Connecticut as a state with “widespread” flu cases, meaning that no areas are flu-free.  (ILINet is broader and includes flu-like illnesses.)

“These indicators clearly show that Connecticut has not avoided the flu,” Gerrish said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio


How Companies Can Prevent an Office Flu Epidemic

Pixland/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- What has been called the worst flu season in a decade could cost companies billions of dollars in employee health care costs for hospitalizations and more outpatient visits.

According to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual influenza epidemics result in an average 3.1 million hospitalized days and $10.4 billion in direct medical costs annually, based on the 2003 U.S. population.

Kathleen Caminiti, a partner in the New York and New Jersey office of Fisher & Phillips, an Atlanta-based law firm that specializes in labor and employment law, said there were certain precautions employers could take to limit business losses and help their employees.

She said her office had received more inquiries this year than last year from companies asking what they could do to protect themselves and their employees in this “aggressive” flu season, exemplified by Boston declaring a public health emergency on Wednesday.  Eighteen flu deaths hve been reported in Massachusetts.

“The first thing we say is an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Caminiti said.

Even encouraging employees to wash their hands or to get flu shots can possibly prevent the spread of germs.  “Having an office manager go out to buy hand sanitizer may be the best $20 you spend,” says Caminiti.

While some employers provide free flu shots in the office, health care settings can require employees to get them.

If a company not in the health field would like to make flu shots mandatory, Caminiti recommended conducting a health risk assessment for the workplace to support the mandate.  The company would also be required to engage in a “very interactive, individualized process” with respect to any employee who objects to a flu shot for health or religious reasons.

John Challenger, CEO of executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray and Christmas, said employers need to assess whether their work culture encourages those who are sick to stay home.

“Not only do people not want to come in when others around them are sick, but companies are realizing when there’s an outbreak, the whole work force goes down,” he said.

Caminiti said some companies might be inclined to be more lenient with those who call in sick, allowing them an extra day to work from home to recover, or not requiring a doctor’s note for those who have not been able to see a doctor.

“As long as you act uniformly, you’re in good shape,” Caminiti said.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

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