Did you know that Genital Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and that most sexually active people in the United States will have HPV at some time in their lives?
There are more than 40 types of HPV that are passed on through sexual contact and these types can infect the genital areas of men, including the skin on and around the penis or anus. They can also infect the mouth and throat. In addition, most cervical cancers in women are caused by HPV
HPV is passed on through skin to skin contact — most often during vaginal and anal sex. HPV may also be passed on during oral sex. Since HPV usually causes no symptoms, most men and women can get HPV — and pass it on — without realizing it. People can have HPV even if years have passed since they last had sex and even men or women with only one lifetime sex partner can get HPV.
Most men who get HPV (of any type) never develop any symptoms or health problems. But some types of HPV can cause genital warts. Other types can cause cancers of the penis, anus, or oropharynx (back of the throat, including base of the tongue and tonsils.)
The above said, some men are more likely to develop HPV- associated health problems than others:
One of my two partners doesn't take anything unless the doctor insists. The other takes whatever he’s told and then adds all manner of what he calls "herbals” to his regimen. I fall somewhere in the middle.
Its taken awhile, but I have finally managed to get the one of us who will try most any herbal to provide the doctor with a list of his herbals — which run from Valerian Root for his problems sleeping to Cat s Claw which he says helps fight off the effects of a case of Lyme Disease he got from tick bites some years ago.
Do they work? Maybe, according to the experts. And does the doctor need to know if you or I or my partner takes these herbals? A definite yes to that because those herbals can affect your body and other prescriptions you might have to take. Some of them can even be deadly with the wrong combination of prescription and even over- the-counter drugs.
The truth is, however, that very few healthcare professionals in the United States like answering questions about natural medicine products — the proper name for what my partner calls "herbals". Chances are if you've asked your doctor about herbal products, they probably resisted answering the question and told you to ask your pharmacist. Afterall, pharmacists are supposed to be the experts about medicines, right? Problem is that most pharmacists don’t like answering questions about herbal products any more than the doctors do. Why is that? How could it be?
First off, herbal products are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). That means anyone can market, package and distribute these “medicines” and sell them to you and me supposedly to "fix" or "cure” most any ailment we have.
But wait! There's a notice on the bottles and it says right there that the FDA calls these dietary supplements, not drugs, so it’s the law, right?
Well The Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA) classified herbs as "dietary supplements” and not “drugs," but all that means is that the FDA is not required to regulate them. [So then why are some naturally occurring plants, like marijuana, regulated by the government? The answer is that marijuana is currently classified as an "illicit drug" and not a "dietary supplement" or a "medicinal ding,” so it is over-seen by a division of the government called the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) though even that is currently changing with several states "legalizing” pot for "medicinal use,” and others for "recreational purposes, though that’s a story for another day.].
But back to those other roots, oils and herbs... Manufacturers of herbal products can make claims about their product’s supposed safety and efficacy, but the claims don’t have to have any scientific evidence to support them (unlike claims made about drugs). The only stipulation is that manufacturers cannot claim that their herbal products diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases. For example, a company can say that their product "improves your mood” but they cannot say that it "treats depression.” Just look on most any bottle and there’s a politely worded FDA-required statement which says exactly that — that the FDA had not guaranteed or tested the product. In other words: it's the maker's word against yours and your doctor's if that herbal will treat, help or do anything positive. And it's your responsibility not to let it harm or kill you with an interaction to something your doctor did prescribe.
Author’s note: This article contains information on the human papilloma virus (HPV), its treatment, and its vaccine. The author in no way intends the information to be used to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be construed as an attempt to practice medicine. All medical conditions should be evaluated on a case by case basis by a licensed medical practitioner. The facts presented in the article were obtained from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the Gay/Lesbian Medical Association, the American Medical Association, the Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the National Cancer Institute, and the Food and Drug Administration. Any opinions made are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GayFresno, its owners, affiliates, and/or subsidiaries. Again, you should ALWAYS consult a licensed medical practitioner before making decisions about your health.
A few months back I saw a video of a woman giving this ridiculous speech about “homosexuals.” After watching it, I remember thinking to myself that this woman must be insane. She made several ludicrous points which included: gays convert children by touching them, the “sin” attracts natural disasters, and we spread colon cancer. Now, make no mistake that I still think the woman is nuts, but I did find that she may have been close to an actual truth with the last of her comments. First of all, let me make this very clear: You cannot spread colon cancer with anal sex. However, I did say she was close. This article should help to clarify things.
In recent years there have been a growing number of cases of anal cancers directly related to the human papilloma virus (HPV). For decades HPV has been linked to female reproductive cancers, and it’s no secret that anal warts have been around for some time, but these latest findings are telling a new story. Before we get into the details of the findings, let’s take a moment and define some terminology.
There is some misconception about the anus and what it is. Most people think it’s just the “exit” hole and sphincter. The fact is the anus is actually a much larger area than just the external exit. The anus starts at the bottom of the rectum, the last portion of the colon (large intestine.) The anorectal line separates the anus from the rectum, making up the last 2 to 4 centimeters of the lower gastrointestinal tract. For the purpose of this article, when I refer to anus, I am referring to the entire area. A papilloma is generally a benign epithelial tumor, resembling a skin tag or “nipple.” With that said, let’s move on to the condition.
The human papilloma virus (HPV) is a DNA virus (meaning that it uses DNA to replicate) that typically infects the mucous membranes. There are more than 150 known types of HPV though the majority does not cause symptoms in humans. More than 30 of those cause benign papillomas, genital warts, and infections that can lead to precancerous lesions and invasive cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis, oropharynx, and anus. Fifteen of those have been classified as carcinogenic “high-risk” sexually transmitted HPVs. Additionally, HPV has been linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
With those numbers in mind, I began asking myself who was at risk. Can we do anything about it? Are there treatments or preventative measures? A little research turned up some even more disturbing information. The U.S. Center for Disease Control reports that “Anyone who is having (or has ever had) sex can get HPV. HPV is so common that nearly all sexually-active men and women get it at some point in their lives. This is true even for people who only have sex with one person in their lifetime.” (I have to admit that seems a little scary.) It can be passed from person to person through oral sex, genital to genital contact, anal sex, or vaginal intercourse. The virus can be spread with or without symptoms and affects both heterosexual and homosexual couples. In rare cases, pregnant women may even pass the viruses on to an infant during delivery. An individual can contract more than one type of HPV. HPV infections are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the United States. The statistics for females having HPV and HPV-related cancers are staggering, but what is less commonly known is that more and more men are experiencing complications from these infections, including cancer. Each year an average of 1900 men are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer of the penis or anus, and the numbers are growing exponentially. Gay and bisexual men are 17 times more likely to develop HPV-related anal cancers than men who only have sex with women. Additionally, individuals with compromised immune systems (those with HIV or those who take immune-suppressing medications) are at an even higher risk. In 2010, there were 5300 new cases of anal cancer directly related to HPV and a little more than 700 deaths by the same. Those numbers have increased by 73% in the last 3 years. Of the men in those cases, more than half were gay and bisexual men.
I’m blown away. I remember hearing my parents talk about the “big VDs” when they were in school: gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and chlamydia. Then, when I was in elementary school and junior high, the terminology changed from venereal disease to sexually transmitted disease, and the focus had shifted to HIV/AIDS. We’d have 10 or 15 sentences in a textbook about the ones from my dad’s generation, and then page after page about HIV. Now, with the advances in medicine and better understanding of conditions, we’ve become almost as casual about AIDS as we have the clap. Here we are in the 21st century, and I’m looking in my son’s health textbook, and the chapter on STDs is miniscule. Looking at the numbers for HPV, I have to wonder if we did this to ourselves. Our casual outlook on sex and the infections associated with it has without a doubt contributed to the rise of something more sinister: a disease that can lay dormant for decades while innocuously being transmitted by minor sexual contact; a disease that can lead to cancer. Genital warts have been around for centuries, and people looked at them as…nothing, a simple blemish. Misconceptions about their fungal counterparts and a primitive school of thought have allowed this virus to grow and evolve into a new monster. We are engineering the icon of our destruction through complacency and foolishness. My readers might find that a bit extreme, but consider this: a virus that nearly all of the human population is infected with can mutate and evolve over a very short span of time to establish a potentially lethal cancer in an otherwise healthy body. I believe it is that serious.
Apparently, there are those in the medical field who share my concern for the growing number of cases of HPV in this country. New treatments are becoming more available and preventative measures are being established and debated. The newest of these prevention tactics allies with the FDA’s green-light for a vaccine that not only helps protect women from reproductive cancers related to HPV, but also helps to prevent anal cancer. Gardasil has been approved for children and young adults from ages 9 to 26. The administration of the vaccine is proving to lower the number of cancer-related HPV infections in those age categories. The vaccine, while still in its infancy, is essential to bringing an end to the spread of HPV. As more and more individuals are vaccinated, we should see a gradual shift downward in the numbers. Dr. Karen Midthun of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research said, “Treatment for anal cancer is challenging; the use of Gardasil as a method of prevention is important as it may result in fewer diagnoses and the subsequent surgery, radiation or chemotherapy that individuals need to endure.” Currently, 90% of anal cancers are related to HPV, but this vaccination is expected to reduce that percentage considerably over the next decade. This is of course directly dependent on individuals being properly vaccinated within the appropriate time period. We, the people, are responsible for ushering in an HPV-free era by being vaccinated and utilizing safer-sex practices. Gardasil’s ability to prevent anal cancer and the associated precancerous lesions [anal intraepithelial neoplasia (AIN) grades 1, 2, and 3] caused by anal HPV-16/18 infection was studied in a randomized, controlled trial of men who self-identified as having sex with men (MSM). This population was studied because it has the highest incidence of anal cancer. At the end of the study period, Gardasil was shown to be 78% effective in the prevention of HPV 16- and 18-related AIN. Because anal cancer is the same disease in both males and females, the effectiveness data was used to support the indication in females as well. The New York Times recently reported that the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology has been engaged in debate involving the allowance of Ob/Gyn medical professionals to treat men. The Board had previously disallowed its members from treating male patients, but a panel of experts in anal cancer petitioned the board to reconsider its position. Patient advocacy groups also got involved, pointing out that the board’s initial decision could interfere with research and make it harder for men to find screening and treatment. The board had stated that it wanted to preserve the profession’s female specialty and limit the non-gynecological work performed by its members. Dr. Kenneth Noller, the board’s director of evaluation, said the reconsideration came from the long tradition of gynecologists treating sexually transmitted diseases in women and men, and that HPV and its associated problems fell into that category.
Where does that leave us? What steps do we take toward prevention? A new type of screening has become available in some areas. Similar to the Pap smear used by gynecologists for the last several years for the early detection of cervical cancer in women, the Anal PAP is now being recommended for gay and bisexual men. The test is simple and involves collecting cells from the anus and rectum which are then studied under the microscope to identify certain structural changes in the cells. The procedure is painless and quick. The preparation time is 24 hours and basically requires that the individual not put anything into the anus for that period (no sex, no toys, no lubricants, no enemas, etc.) The Harvard Board of Public Health that sponsored the initial studies in Anal Paps recommends testing once every three years. I believe a few hours (appointment and procedure time) out of every three years are worth it; it could save your life. The testing process should begin when an individual becomes sexually active. In addition to the Anal PAP, the vaccine, Gardasil, is available for those in the appropriate age category. Gardasil is safe for both males and females, and it is recommended that vaccination begin between ages 9 and 11. The vaccine is given in 3 doses over the course of 6 months. Individuals between the ages of 9 and 26 who have not been vaccinated should strongly consider the vaccine. The vaccine and Anal PAP are covered by most insurance plans and eligible children may be able to receive the vaccine through Vaccines for Children.
So, the crazy lady who said gay men were giving people rectum cancer wasn’t far off. Even though it isn’t the rectum that is affected by HPV, the reality is anal cancer is undeniably connected with anal intercourse. So what’s “the good, the bad, and the ugly”? The good here is that we are making strides in the prevention and treatment of HPV. The bad news is that unprotected sex isn’t just about STD/STIs anymore. It can cause cancer! And the ugly…squeezing an Anal PAP into my schedule. You should too.
Author’s Note: The following information is compiled from multiple sources including: The Mayo Clinic, the American Medical Association, the American Red Cross, and the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians. The information included in this article is not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any serious medical condition. In the case of all emergency situations and medical conditions, it is absolutely essential to seek the advice of a licensed medical professional. All opinions stated in the article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of GayFresno, its owners, entities, affiliates, or subsidiaries.
“Put a little butter on it!” This phrase is commonly heard in the south just after someone has burned himself on a hot pan. It’s just one of the many “old wives’ tales” associated with first aid. In many cases, there tends to be some truth to the tales, and in others…well, they can do more harm than good. Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed a good deal of “first aid” advice flying across my Facebook feed in response to a few of my more accident prone friends hurting themselves. Some of the advice was medically sound, but most of it wasn’t on par with current first aid standards. Please understand that I’m not saying that someone must run to the emergency room for every scrape, cut, and burn, but what I am saying is that you can hurt yourself more if you don’t know what you’re doing. There are many things you can do at home to handle minor first aid situations. I’d like to take the time to address someone of those instances, dispel a few myths, and give people a better understanding of how to properly handle the situation. And now, on with the show…
One of the most common first aid situations in the U.S. revolves around minor burns. Whether it’s from touching a hot pan or oil splatter, people seem to burn themselves quite often. An average of 3 million people seek medical attention for burns each year, but that pales in comparison to the number of people who treat burns at home. In a recent poll, it was determined that, over the course of a year, 78% of the population of the United States will sustain a minor burn and will not seek medical treatment for it. There are 2 problems with this. Most people don’t know when to seek medical attention and when to handle it at home, and most people do not know how to properly treat a burn. A minor burn (one that does not require emergency medical attention) is less than 3 inches in diameter, does not break the skin, even if it blisters, and does not involve substantial portions of the hands, feet, face, groin, buttocks, or major joints. If the burn covers a larger area or causes the skin to crack or slough off, seek medical attention immediately. Do NOT pop “water blisters.” If you determine this to be a minor burn, then move on to treatment. Some of the myths surrounding first aid treatment for burns include: butter, vegetable oil, egg whites, vasoline, frozen peas, and ice packs. Stop for a moment and consider what happens when you heat butter or oil? It melts. We fry things in it. Does it really make sense to use that on a burn? Egg whites? Do you know what happens when you heat up an egg? It cooks. Vasoline is very oily and can fall into the same category as vegetable oils and butter. Cellular degradation occurs faster below 90 degrees, so cooling the area with ice packs or other frozen materials is not recommended. To properly treat a minor burn, place the burned area under RUNNING, cool (NOT cold) water for 10 to 15 minutes or until the pain lessens. If it is impractical to use running water, then immerse the burned area in cool water for the same length of time. Once the pain has lessened, gently blot the area dry. You may now apply an over-the-counter burn cream, such as Aquafor (similar to vasoline, but not the same) or Bacitracin, and cover it with non-stick, sterile gauze. Don't use fluffy cotton or other lint-ridden materials. You should wrap the gauze loosely to avoid putting pressure on burned skin. Bandaging keeps air off the burn, reduces pain, and protects damaged skin. Most people don’t have burn creams in their medicine cabinets, and if you happen to be one of those people, there is something you can do. Always begin with the cool water treatment. Once you get to the burn cream and bandaging step, if you don’t have the proper first aid materials, you can apply a layer of common yellow mustard to the burns that DO NOT immediately blister. The vinegar in the mustard will reduce bacteria of the affected area, and there are some natural pain relieving properties of mustard seed. This should be temporary though and used as a secondary option. Use the proper materials whenever possible.
Another common injury, especially for those of us with children, is minor cuts and abrasions. This is the most common type of minor injury. My grandparents would swear by alcohol and a red liquid called Mercurochrome. Those treatments burned like crazy, and quite honestly, I’d had rather just bled to death. Then of course, there were always the “boil it out with peroxide” comments, followed by “Just let it breathe. It will heal faster.” *BZZZZ* We’ve heard these things all of our lives, but there isn’t a lot of truth in them. Before we get into the first aid, we need to define what a “minor cut or abrasion” is. It’s not as clear cut as you would think. Consult a physician for any cuts and abrasions near or on your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, or feet (especially if you are diabetic.) If the cut bleeds heavily, has jagged edges, gapes open, is more than ¼ inch deep, or reveals fat or muscle tissue, seek medical attention. If you cannot adequately clean the wound (removing all dirt and debris) or the wound was caused by a rusted object, call your doctor. Deep puncture wounds should always be looked at by a licensed medical practitioner, especially if you have not had a tetanus shot in the last 5 years. If the wound was caused by an animal or human bite that breaks the skin or the injured area feels numb, go straight to the ER. Now, I’m sure your thinking, “I’ve had injuries like that before, and I didn’t go to the doctor. It was just fine.” That may be true, but that doesn’t mean it was the best course of action. In most cases, the cut itself isn’t nearly as concerning as the related infections that can occur from improper treatment. Nails, thorns, bites (animal or human), and cuts from household objects contain microbes (fungi, bacteria, parasites, etc.) that can cause SERIOUS and LIFE THREANTENING complications. Don’t play with your health. Now that we’ve established “minor,” let’s talk about those pesky myths. Substances like alcohol, iodine, mercurochrome, and what not are painful and unnecessary. Peroxide can actually damage healthy cells in the area of the wound, which will slow healing and could lead to other problems. All of those chemicals are harsh and can irritate the wound. First, flush the area with cool, running water removing as much dirt and debris as possible. You may use a mild, anti-bacterial soap on the area as well, but be sure to rinse the area thoroughly afterwards. Next, it’s time to stop the bleeding. For minor cuts and abrasions, blood loss is inconsequential and is secondary to cleaning (First aid for more serious injuries with heavy bleeding is different. For this article, we are only talking about minor issues.) You do not want to apply pressure to minor cuts and abrasions that have not been properly cleaned, as you can cause debris (like gravel and glass) or metal shards to become further imbedded in the surrounding tissue. A small amount of bleeding is necessary and helps to clean the wound. Minor cuts typically will stop bleeding on their own, barring certain medical complications like hemophilia. Small cuts to the head, hands, feet, and genitals will often bleed more than cuts to other areas of the body due to the number of blood vessels in those areas. The face is the drama queen of the body. It bleeds a lot. If the bleeding does not stop on its own within a few minutes, apply gentle pressure to the CLEAN wound with a clean cloth or sterile gauze. Hold the pressure steady. Don’t raise the cloth or gauze to check on the wound, because that could cause the wound to start bleeding again. If blood seeps through the dressing, just put more on top and keep applying pressure. It should stop bleeding in 2 to 3 minutes in most cases. If the cut is on your hand or arm, you can help slow the bleeding by raising it above your head. If it the blood spurts, go to the ER! A squirty cut is not a happy cut. Once the wound is clean and the blood has stopped, it’s time to cover it up. Remove any dried blood around the wound (not on it) with a moist, clean cloth. Don’t blow on it. There are microbes in your breath. Apply a thin layer of antibiotic cream (like Neosporin or Polysporin) to the area. (Some of these can cause a rash. If it does, remove the ointment and stop using it.) Apply a clean, sterile bandage. Make sure that the gauze or pad is large enough to cover the entire wound. You don’t want adhesives sticking to the injury. Change the bandage once per day. Keep it covered. Letting it “air out” can allow infections to set in. Keeping it covered will reducing scarring, prevent infection, and allow the body to heal naturally. Once there is no longer a risk of infection, you can stop using the bandages. Be aware that some “pus” will occur, even without an infection. Yellowish pus seen at the beginning stages of healing is normal and is a sign that the body is creating a scab to begin repairing the area. Thick green pus or pus that has a strong, foul odor can be a sign of a serious infection, and you should seek advice from your doctor. I will also add that ripping off tape or Band-Aids is NOT best. This can reopen the wound. Instead, rub the edge of the bandage with water to release the adhesive. It will come off painlessly. Most minor cuts will completely heal in 2 weeks (5 days for the face). If a cut doesn’t scab over, becomes swollen, or does not show signs of healing in that time, you should see your doctor.
The last of the more common minor injuries are those involving muscles and joints. We’ve all had them. Shin splints, twisted knees, sprained ankles, jammed fingers, and stubbed toes. There are TONS of myths surrounding these types of injuries: everything from “COLD ONLY!!!” to “Just yank it lose” and “Keep running!” Since these injuries involved the musculoskeletal structure, continued use of the affected limb or joints with only make it worse. Jerking and yanking on joints is not a good idea for non-medical folk. Broken bones should always be treated by a physician. Don’t, for the love of all that is good, try and set a bone yourself. You can break it worse, set it wrong, or push bone fragments into the tissue, and possibly perforate an artery. Just don’t do it. Let’s take a moment and define some things. A sprain involves the ligaments of the joints that hold one end of a bone to another. A strain involves the muscle tissue and tendons (the connective tissue that holds muscle to bone). Twisted knees and ankles are sprains, while shin splints and pulled muscles are strains. Believe it or not, jammed fingers and stubbed toes also fall into the category of sprains, though they are typically caused by impact injuries that compress the joints. In the cases of sprains and strains, the average person is more concerned as to whether or not the bone is broken. The truth is, unless it’s a compound fracture and you can see the broken bone, you really can’t tell without an X-ray. Suspected broken bones can be determined by answering the following 3 questions.
1. Did you hear or feel a snap/pop in the injured area?
2. Are you having extreme difficulty moving the injured limb?
3. Does the injured part move in an unnatural way?
If you answer yes to any of those questions, GO TO THE ER. The pain from sprains and strains can mimic the signs of a broken bone, but it’s always best to be safe. If however, you are certain you are dealing with a minor strain or sprain, we treat them all the same way—with RICE! Not rice like the grain though. RICE is an acronym used for the treatment of strains and sprains: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. Rest the injured area for a minimum of 24 hours. Apply ice for 20 minutes at a time with 20 to 40 minute breaks between icings. LIGHTLY compress it with an elastic bandage (like an ACE bandage) for a minimum of 2 days. Elevate the injury above the level of the heart. All of these things help to reduce swelling and pain. You should NEVER apply heat to a sprain or strain during the first 24 hours. Heat will cause an increase in swelling and pain. If after the first 24 hours, the swelling is gone, but you are still experiencing discomfort, you may alternate between heat and ice for a few hours. For impact injuries like jammed fingers and stubbed toes, it is best to wrap the finger or toe to an adjacent finger or toe to help with stability. Don’t yank on it or try to “pop it” back into place. It will do that on its own. Expect bruising to occur with these types of injuries. In the case of shin splints, DO NOT keep running. Shin splints are caused by the muscle tearing. If you keep running, you will only make it worse. If you cannot stand or walk, if the pain and swelling persist longer than 48 hours, or if you lose feeling (goes numb), seek medical attention immediately.
So folks, save the butter for biscuits. Remember to CTC! Cut the crap, and “Clean! Treat! Cover!” Use RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation. And seek medical attention if you have any doubt about your health or injuries.
As an addendum to the article, I’d like to offer some advice on home first aid kits. Cheap kits are available at most major stores, though they can sometimes be lacking in their overall supply. While many of them will have bandages, gauze, ointments, and swabs, they often do not contain cold packs, syringes, elastic bandages, or anti-bacterial soap. You can make your own first aid kits for a little more money, and tailor them to your needs. You can make them for your vehicle and home. Purchase a small Rubbermaid tote or Lock-Tite box from your local department store. They come in a variety of sizes. Fill them with items that can help you treat minor injury and store them in an easily accessible place that everyone in your family knows about. Items to include are: elastic bandages (ACE bandages) of varying size, a variety pack of Band-Aids, Bacitracin, Neosporin, Aquafor, anti-bacterial soap, non-stick gauze rolls and pads, self-adhering medical tape, a 10 mL syringe without the needle (for flushing), a small bottle of artificial tears, saline solution, a cold pack, a small pair of scissors, tweezers, and latex gloves. You’ll be better for it! Be safe!
My Grandpa Dave always called it “the epizootic.” Others used the term “Le Grippe” for it. And the old joke this time of year when someone felt less-than-great used to be "we opened the door and in flu enza!” The bad part is while regardless of the name (and that in flu enza joke always got a smile from the 1918 epidemic to more recent times) influenza, or the flu as we call it, is no joke.
To make matters worse, as though we needed any bad news, this year there are fears of a worse flu season than normal due to the early start of cool weather and the fact that more and more and more folks are traveling. Yes, travelling. Before jets and everyone flying here or there, flus were often contained in one city, country or area. Now in under 24 hours you can go around the world... and when you return you can (and will) bring along all manner of organisms on your shoes, clothes, in your body and on your luggage.
This means a small area’s flu germs can and will be transported worldwide in not weeks or months as used to be the case, but in hours.
How many folks even get so sick that they die during each Winters annual epidemic is really unknown according to the Centres for Disease Control (CDC). Many cite 36,000 which was the result in a survey done a few years back, but the CDC says this can’t really be relied on any more than some estimates which range as high as 60,000.
Why not? Because so many contributing factors and other causes land on death certificates that they admit it's really tough to say how many have died as a result of the flu any specific year or who expired as a result of complications or aftereffects. Many death certificates show pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, making it even tougher to say with surety.
But regardless of the cause and the fact that hundreds of thousands get the flu but do not die, this is the time to think hard about the upcoming flu season and to protect yourself with a shot for this year's expected outbreaks.
Read more: Medical Matters - Flu