In early October, most experts felt that this year, the flu season would be a no-show. However, it is already evident that the flu season is very much alive and also quite severe. All over the country, thousands of people have been infected with the flu virus, but unlike last year, the symptoms appear to be worse. Already five deaths have been reported in children and at least 566 people have been hospitalized because of the flu.
The flu epidemic appears to be worse in the South, says the CDC. Widespread flu activity has been reported in many states including Louisiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Massachusetts. The CDC is again reminding that everyone older than 6 months should get vaccinated.
Unfortunately, less than 50% of Americans get the flu vaccine. The two common reasons for this include 1) worry about potential side effects and 2) the limited efficacy of the vaccine. Last year, the flu vaccine was only 40% effective and the public feels that there is no point in getting vaccinated.
Data from the CDC indicate that only 39% of Americans had received the flu vaccine by the end of November 2017. The flu virus is known to spread through aerosolized particles that are released when an infected person coughs, speaks or sneezes. Within 24-48 hours, the classic symptoms of the flu-like a headache, sore throat, cough, fever, and body aches appear. For most people, the recovery takes anywhere from 7-14 days. However, in young children and the elderly, the flu can lead to more serious conditions such pneumonia, sinus infection or bronchitis.
Apart from the flu vaccine, there are other ways to prevent the infection. These include regular hand washing, not sharing personal care products, teaching children not to share toys and staying home when the infection is full blown. Use of alcohol to wipe inanimate objects is also widely done in healthcare settings.
In addition to children and the elderly, pregnant women are also vulnerable to the flu. The CDC recommends flu shots for all women who are pregnant or considering a pregnancy during the flu season. Unfortunately, despite these warnings, pregnant women still continue to ignore this advice.
The flu shot, fortunately, is relatively safe. Some individuals may develop a sore arm, sore eyes, cough, fever, and body ache- but these side effects are mild and resolve quickly. Doctors also recommend better self-care by eating healthy and not smoking.