This year’s influenza outbreak is increasing nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reports more than 6,400 confirmed cases and 24 states with widespread flu activity through December 29.
“You cannot get the flu from the flu shot…”
The 2017-2018 flu season was the most deadly in decades with more than 80,000 deaths, including over 170 pediatric flu deaths. There have been 13 influenza-associated pediatric deaths during the current season.
Infectious disease expert David Cennimo of the Rutgers New Jersey Medical School discusses this year’s flu season and how you can protect yourself:
What strains are prevalent this year?
This year, we are seeing influenza A H1N1 and H3N2, and influenza B viruses. The H1N1 strain is predominant. Last year, we had more H3 strains circulating.
Should people still get vaccinated?
It is recommended that people still get the flu vaccination if they have not already. Even if you think you had the flu already, it is possible to get a second infection with a different strain, so immunization can still be beneficial. The vaccination can reduce symptoms and duration even if you get the flu.
Most family physicians, pediatrician offices, primary care clinics, and pharmacies offer the influenza vaccine. You cannot get the flu from the flu shot, but immunity usually takes about two weeks to develop.
People should also continue to practice good hygiene, like washing your hands, coughing into your sleeve, disposing used tissues, and staying home if you’re sick. If you are sick, avoiding people who are hospitalized, undergoing cancer treatment, or who have diabetes or other chronic illnesses is a good idea.
What complications can accompany the flu?
Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications of flu, but a frequent serious complication, particularly in people with chronic lung disease, is pneumonia. In addition to pneumonia, serious complications include inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues, and multi-organ failure, such as respiratory and kidney failure. The flu itself can lead it respiratory failure and death.
When should you call your doctor?
Common symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue, vomiting, and diarrhea. The last two are more common in children than adults. A doctor can prescribe medication to treat the flu. It is most effective if started within the first 48 hours of symptoms, so it’s important to call as soon as flu is suspected.