Woe to anyone who suffers the flu this season, and I can now count myself among the chosen who have been visited by this most hard-hitting of viral illnesses. Arriving home from a trip to see my parents, I began to feel unwell on the train as I traveled through New York State. By the time I arrived home to New England, a fever, chills, and unbelievable muscle aches had taken over, and I moaned my way through the night as my amazingly patient and solicitous wife tended to my every need. Now I'm lethargic, with a head that feels like it's filled with cotton-candy, and muscles that ache unceasingly (although a hot bath worked wonders this afternoon).
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the week of February 23rd---the 8th week in this year's flu season---saw widespread reporting of influenza by epidemiologists in every state but Florida. You can see the epidemiological map here. According to the data, the entire country seems to have become "lit up" with flu, so to speak, during the month of February.
It is often difficult for people to tell whether they have the flu or a common cold. There are many tools available to assist you in making that determination before you call your doctor, and I offer several useful links forthwith.
A handy quiz on About.com will guide you through a series of questions to determine the potential source of your illness.
C Health offers this table comparing various symptoms.
The good ol' CDC offers general advice on the difference between the flu and the common cold.
And the U.S. FDA also chimes in with a basic table of symptoms.
As far as treatment for the flu, there's really nothing more to do than rest, hydrate, take a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory for pain and headache, and then rest some more. And did I mention rest? If your fever becomes precipitously high---especially in children and adults with other underlying conditions---a trip or telephone call to the doctor is probably in order. However, the majority of flu sufferers can usually stay home and recover without unnecessary use of medical resources.
As for me, even more rest is now in order, and I hope to be back to my usual self in a few days. Luckily, transmission of real viruses is impossible over the Internet, thus blogging while suffering from the flu is still allowed by the CDC.
More soon from Influenza Central.