Believe it or not, it’s possible to have to the flu and never feel it, as a new study finds three quarters of people who have seasonal and pandemic flu don’t exhibit any symptoms.
Researchers at University College London in the UK, led by Dr. Andrew Hayward, published their study’s results in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine. According to the study, recent outbreaks of seasonal flu and the H1N1 influenza pandemic infected one in five people from the general population. Yet, only 23% of these infections actually caused symptoms, and only 17% of those people were actually unwell enough to visit their respective physicians.
The research team says that their findings show that influenza rates across all winter seasons was around 22 times higher than the Royal College of General Practitioners Sentinal Influenza-Like Illness Surveillance Scheme’s recorded rates, which shows that there’s been a gross underestimation of the flu’s magnitude.
Dr. Hayward said in a journal news release that “Reported cases of influenza represent the tip of a large clinical and subclinical iceberg that is mainly invisible to national surveillance systems that only record cases seeking medical attention.”
On February 20th, the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report reported that this current flu season was particularly hard on younger and middle-age adults, as the 18-64 demographic represented 61% of all influenza hospitalizations. However, it’s reasonable to wonder if this data is accurate in light of this new study.
What’s more important to think about as March roars in like a lion, though, is how to prevent catching the flu, as 80% of people are more likely to get sick during the winter.
The CDC urges people to take three precautions against the flu. First, get vaccinated. Secondly, take normal, everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs. This includes limiting contact with the sick, disinfecting surfaces, and washing hands frequently. Lastly, take antivirals, which can make illness milder and shorten the time being sick.
Dr. Hayward, who led the research team, says we now “need to prepare for how to respond to both mild and severe pandemics.” Refining assessments of severity can achieve this, which will allow the medical industry to react earlier in the face of a pandemic.