Flu season isn’t even close to over
After 13 years of monitoring the spread of flu, the CDC has announced a first — as of this month, every part of the continental United States is being affected by “widespread” flu activity. That’s pretty frightening info, but the good news?
It’s far from too late to get the flu shot.
According to the FDA, flu activity peaks between December and February with the last of it winding down in May. And this year, it’s more prevalent than usual.
“This is the first year we had the entire continental U.S. be the same color on the graph, meaning there’s widespread activity in all of the continental U.S. at this point,” CDC Influenza Division Director Dr. Dan Jernigan said in a recent briefing. “It is in a lot of places and causing a lot of flu.”
The fact that it isn’t too late to get the vaccine is important info this year in particular as the flu is more dangerous this season than usual. According to the CDC, influenza A — specifically H3N2 — is showing up more, and the H3 viruses tend to cause more serious cases of the flu in the typical high-risk populations of very young kids and the elderly.
Unfortunately, this year’s strains aren’t as responsive to the vaccine with a rate of just 30% effectiveness against the H3 viruses. However, the CDC is still recommending people get vaccinated, even at this point in the season. There’s still about 13 weeks of flu season left to go, and influenza B tends to show up in the later weeks, which the shot may provide protection from. Also, the shot can reduce the severity of symptoms if a vaccinated person happens to catch the virus.
If you or someone in your family has flu symptoms, which include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle or body aches, headache and fatigue, seeing a doctor within 48 hours could help shorten the duration of the illness. An antiviral like Tamiflu could help lessen the symptoms and make for a faster recovery.
As far as prevention of flu virus in the first place, the CDC recommends lots of hand-washing along with staying home when you’re ill and avoiding close contact with anyone who is sick or may be sick.