THE dreaded ‘‘man flu’’ is little more than a myth and it is women who are more likely to be headed under the doona this winter, Hunter researchers have found.
Public health physicians from Hunter New England Health and the University of Newcastle have analysed the results from their national flu-monitoring program ‘‘flutracking.net’’.
They looked at the weekly data from more than 16,000 surveillance participants during last year’s flu season and found little difference between the average duration of illness for male and female respondents.
Women took an average of three days off normal duties with cough and fever, slightly more than the men who took an average of 2.8 days off.
Among those ill enough to visit an emergency department, women took an average of four days off, whereas men took 3.5.
Hunter New England Health public health physician Dr Craig Dalton said the Flutracking analysis team was split over the implications of the findings.
‘‘The theory is maybe men are not so sick when they get to the emergency department and so they need less time off,’’ he said.
‘‘Or they’re just as sick as the women but they do not take as much time off.’’
What researchers did find was that men and women differed as to when they got sick.
Women tended to get ill earlier in the flu season than men and then again after the peak of the flu activity mid-July.
‘‘This may be explained by females providing more care of ill family members,’’ Dr Dalton said.
‘‘Respiratory syncytial virus, which is a common childhood illness, goes through early in the season and then women will also get sick after the flu peaks.’’
He said medically ‘‘man flu’’ did not exist despite different immune systems in men and women.
Dr Dalton said two people who contracted the same virus might get sick differently through immunity, genetics and virus exposure.
Pregnant women suffered because their body’s immune systems were suppressed.
Other vulnerable groups included the elderly, infants, chronically ill and indigenous.
Dr Dalton reminded people to get a flu shot.
Man lurgy terror hits
Man flu is real and has a nastier kick than bird flu if you ask Rupert Fagg and Dean Zarowski.
The brothers-in-law suffered through the seasonal lurgy the past four days, getting little sympathy from their partners.
Mr Fagg, of Cooks Hill, became ill late last week.
‘‘This new terror does exist,’’ he said. ‘‘It starts out as a normal cold and it just gets worse and worse.
‘‘You’re sensitive to light and cold and heat and just generally feel weak.’’
Mr Fagg said he had hoped it was bird flu ‘‘which was less severe’’.
‘‘It’s only today that I’ve started feeling like I’ve turned a corner.’’
Mr Fagg said he hadn’t been able to stay home sick from work and bravely ‘‘battled on through’’.
‘‘I can see in other guys on the street that they have had it – you just know.’’
His partner Ali Smith said everyone knew bird flu was 10 times worse.
‘‘He’s just whingeing.’’