The influenza virus affects millions of people each year. It also accounts for tens of thousands of deaths primarily among elderly, infirm patients and children with chronic illnesses. It also has tremendous impact on productivity in the workplace. Recently, that impact became evident by the direct effect of the influenza virus on the Boston Red Sox lineup.
There are multiple types of the influenza virus that can change their genetic footprint. These changes make immunization a challenging guessing game each year to predict what strains will have the most impact.
Immunization consists of administering a weakened form of the virus allowing the immune system to build up antibodies against a potential infection. Infections can spread quickly among individuals living in close proximity, such as in dormitories.
Typical symptoms include: fever, cough, nasal congestion, nausea, vomiting, joint pain and headache. These symptoms can persist for days or weeks. Treatment is best described as symptomatic with fluid replacement to avoid dehydration and medications to bring down a fever. More recently, antiviral medications are helpful if they are taken soon enough.
Flu season in the United States extends from October to May with peak frequency in February. Unfortunately, baseball spring training begins at the height of flu season and precautions need to be taken to avoid spread if an individual athlete begins to show symptoms.
Like many workers, baseball players are afraid that they may be risking their positions and may force themselves to come to work when ill. This puts other team members at risk.
Clearly the initially-infected athlete was not identified and isolated on the Boston Red Sox team. This has led to numerous players missing time in the starting lineup. Sanitizing locker rooms and avoiding excessive personal contact will avoid prolongation and recurrence.
An outbreak of influenza can slow workplace productivity, even in professional sports.
Dr. Alessi is a neurologist in Norwich and serves as an on-air contributor for ESPN. He is director of UConn NeuroSport and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org