Each year, millions of people fall victim to the flu. Normally, this means a day or two out of work and moving on with life. However, this year the flu has been especially rampant across the country. But, why has the 2018 flu season been so intense? Read below to find out.
Why is the flu so bad this year?
Each year, different strands of the influenza virus circulate throughout the country. This year, influenza A — specifically H3N2 — is especially prevalent, according to the CDC. Historically, years with H3 strands of the influenza virus tend to see more serious cases of the flu. This is especially true in young children and elderly adults, resulting in more total infections and more hospitalizations. H3 viruses were also behind the severe flu seasons in 2014-2015 and 2012-2013. Additionally, the H1N1 (nicknamed “swine flu”) has surfaced in parts of the country, adding more serious cases to the overall count.
Are we having a flu epidemic?
The CDC reports that since flu season monitoring began on Oct. 1, roughly 60,000 samples have tested positive for influenza in either clinical or public laboratories. Currently, the hospitalization rate is at 22.7 people per 100,000 U.S. residents. The CDC considers these numbers “epidemic level” but notes that the criteria are met almost every year, and that the country should begin to see a decline in the number of cases in the coming months.
Are flu shots working?
Each year, the flu vaccine is adjusted to target what is believed to be the most common influenza strains. However, this estimate is never a guarantee for protection. The CDC estimates that vaccinations will be effective against roughly 30% of H3 viruses this year. The CDC recommends getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, as flu season can last well into springtime. The shot may protect against influenza B strains, which tend to come out later in the season.
Why are people dying from the flu?
This year’s H3N2 strain has been responsible for a number of pediatric deaths. There are also rare cases when a flu-weakened immune system can become susceptible to serious bacterial infections and turn fatal. The flu may also exacerbate chronic conditions, especially in older adults, and lead to serious complications or death.
How do I prevent the flu?
The two most important ways to reduce flu transmission is getting the flu shot and staying home if you are sick. It is also important to wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough and sanitize any surfaces that may have come into contact with an infected individual. Flu germs can live on a surface for up to 24 hours.
What should I do if I have the flu?
You may have the flu if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Muscle or body aches
If you see a doctor within 48 hours of developing symptoms, you may be able to take an antiviral, such as Tamiflu, and shorten the duration and lessen the severity of your case.
If you have the flu, the CDC recommends staying home from work or school for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks. Most people are at peak contagiousness in the three or four days after becoming sick. You may be able to infect others from a day before to seven days after developing symptoms.
If you, or someone in your family is experiencing flu-like symptoms, don’t wait. Contact us for an appointment, or simply walk in during our office hours.