Early peak season could mean a second round soon; vaccine is still encouraged
Hardly the gift they were hoping for, many residents of Kentucky and Southern Indiana got the flu over the holiday season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity is increasing in the U.S. More than 15 states have reported a high number of diagnosed cases.
An early flu season is not unusual. What differs this year is the strain of flu making the rounds.
“According to the CDC, there is an increase in influenza A(H3N2) activity, a strain that has not been prevented as well by the vaccination and has symptoms that tend to be more severe,” said Paul Schulz, M.D., system epidemiologist, Norton Healthcare. “Therefore, you are more likely to get influenza and have a more severe case if you do get infected.”
The flu seems to be affecting all ages. According to Dr. Schulz, people over age 65, under age 2 and those with compromised immune systems tend to have a more difficult time recovering from the flu.
Signs and symptoms of the flu can include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though it is more common in children than adults
Coming down with the flu?
Antiviral medication can be prescribed to help lessen the symptoms and shorten the time you are affected by one or two days. It also can prevent serious flu complications such as pneumonia. Timing is of the essence when it comes to starting antiviral medication. Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best when they are started within two days of symptom onset.
“The key factor to preventing the spread of flu is enforcing good hand hygiene for everyone in the family, practicing cough and sneezing etiquette, and limiting exposure to others who have the flu,” Dr. Schulz said.
He also said the flu vaccine is still recommended. Getting the flu shot now may help protect you through the remainder of the flu season, which can linger into early spring.
“By being vaccinated, you are protecting yourself from the anticipated strains that the vaccine was developed to fight, and the vaccine may help lessen the severity of the symptoms of the A(H3N2) strain,” he said. “In situations like this, some protection is better than none and the benefits of being vaccinated far outweigh the risk of possibly getting the flu.”