Healthy Voice: 5 facts you might not know about cold and flu season

sick person surrounded by used tissues

Sanaa Naeem | Washtenaw Voice





Lurking around on a door handle or a cookie that was too close to a cough, germs are waiting to take up residence in the next unsuspecting person. These five facts likely will not help with staying healthy this winter season, but will provide great thoughts to ponder while recuperating from whatever sickness may ail you.


  1. 262.5 million antibiotics are prescribed each year in the U.S.

The Centers for Disease Control estimate is for outpatient and does not include use in long-term care, such as nursing homes.

The number of antibiotics prescribed are not going down despite the growing knowledge of antibiotic resistance, according to a Princeton University data analysis on global use.

Medical professionals are worried about antibiotic resistance, the term used to explain the phenomenon where the genes of pathogens mutate so that medicines are unable to kill future germ generations.

A 2013 CDC report offers recommendations to improve prescribing appropriate antibiotics for specific infections and when to not prescribe.


  1. 268.2 billion facial tissues produced each year


Estimated from the 419,000 tons of tissues produced in 2014 for U.S. consumers, according to the organization RISI that tracks and collects data on the “forest products” industry.

From single-ply to triple-ply, scented or unscented, lotion infused or anti-viral protected, travel packs or a myriad of decorator designs, the growing number of facial tissues produced is nothing to sneeze at.

Many a tissue has been used to dab a few tears, but facial tissues are the CDC’s first choice for covering a sneeze and the upper sleeve is strongly recommended if nothing else is available.


  1. Vitamin C does not prevent colds

Multiple studies have shown that Vitamin C does not prevent colds, but consuming high doses while feeling under the weather can minimize symptoms.

Harvard Medical School promotes eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables to keep the immune system strong, winning the battle over germs before you even know there’s a war. Getting enough exercise and sleep are also a part of staying healthy.


  1. 60 percent of human diseases are shared with animals

Zoonosis is the technical term for sickness that can be transferred between humans and animals. In a 2012 report by the International Livestock Research Institute, researchers from several different countries mapped zoonosis in relation to poverty around the globe.

The concentration of zoonosis are located in developing countries where the population relies heavily on livestock for their livelihoods and poor sanitation education and infrastructure contribute to disease outbreaks.

With global travel, epidemics can quickly affect and threaten every continent, resulting in pandemics. Americans are likely to recognize the more recent outbreak threats from Ebola and the Avian Flu. The World Health Organization estimates that 2.5 billion people contract a zoonotic illness while 2.7 million humans die per year from those diseases. The actual rates are likely higher due to underreporting.


  1. 1 is survivable, 2 might kill you

When a bacterial or viral infection weakens the immune system, it leaves you susceptible to another pathogen that happens to be hanging out at the same time, or one that arrives later, and that can really bring the body down.

Upper respiratory viral infections are the most common path for contracting bacterial pneumonia according to a 2013 analysis by Carol Joseph and colleagues of bacterial and viral infection studies.

Young children, older adults and individuals with compromised immune systems have a greater risk of dying from pneumonia. The researchers recommend that healthy adults and children receive vaccinations, decreasing the need to use antibiotics.


M. M. Donaldson is a contributor with The Voice and a journalism student at WCC. She has a bachelor of science in family and community services from Michigan State University, and has several years’ experience with nutrition issues affecting infants through older adults. Follow M.M. Donaldson on Facebook.



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