Flu hitting early this year
It’s flu season again. This winter, things are changing, and we need to be aware of the potential of catching the flu. Some common questions being asked concerning the flu are: How many strains of it are out there? Does getting the shot make a difference? What can we do to prevent it? What are the most common symptoms? How long does it take to realize you’ve caught it? I went to some of the experts for the answers.
According to the Center for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), the most recent FluView report for the 2014-2015 season shows that the flu has officially hit the United States. CDC reports that there have already been flu illness cases, hospitalizations, and even deaths related to the spread of it.
CNN interviewed Dr. Tom Frieden, and he expressed much concern relating to this specific strain of the virus. Frieden said, “We could have a season that is more severe than most with more hospitalizations and more deaths.” Previously, it has been more likely for the flu to hit in January or February, so this year, it’s hitting kind of early, which is odd, considering.
Eva Garchar, Kings High School’s nurse, said, “When they developed the flu vaccine, they looked at the previous year’s strains and discovered that this year, there is a mutated strain of H3N2 in the vaccine we currently have.
“There are another 3-4 strains present. Right now, there is a peak of the flu in Ohio, I think that couple of weeks, the number of cases will decrease. There are actually visitor restrictions at Children’s hospital right now, rather than January or February, which means that the flu has hit us a little bit early this year.”
The most common reported virus as of right now is Influenza A, also known as H3N2. In past years that this strain has been present, it’s been linked to higher rates of hospitalization and death. This strain is especially serious in elderly patients and very young patients with chronic health issues such as asthma and heart disease. These patients are at higher risk for potential complications relating to the flu and getting over it.
There are 3 known strains out there, only one of which we have a vaccination made for. The others are mutations. It’s too late in the year to make a new vaccine, simply due to the fact that it typically takes 4 months to come up with one.
Even though this year’s version isn’t as protective against the mutated strain, it can still help to decrease the extent of severity that the virus affects the individual infected with it. The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months or older.
Common symptoms of the flu that should be watched for include: body aches, fever, upper respiratory problems such as a runny nose or cough, and of course, vomiting.
Mr. Moore, Kings High School English teacher, suffered from the flu and strep throat just recently. He missed two days of school, what he said the doctor considered the bare minimum. Of his experience of the flu, Moore said, “ I could tell almost immediately that I was really sick. I know all the tell-tale signs, like chills and sore achy muscles, and when my doctor confirmed that it was the flu, I wasn’t surprised.”
Moore was surprised, however, that he had strep throat along with it. Luckily, he said that there have been no other cases of the flu in his family so far. Preventative measures that his family took may have contributed to the lack of its return.
“My daughter got strep around the same time I did. She was lucky that she didn’t get the flu. We threw all of the toothbrushes away and bought new, washed everything in hot water, and took our antibiotics when we were supposed to, like good kids.”
In a news conference with CNN, Frieden put a lot of emphasis on his point that if you start to see any flu symptoms like fever, sore throat, cough, or body aches, it’s extremely important to start taking antiviral medications as soon as possible. According to Frieden, Tamiflu and Relenza have been considered most effective at reducing complications when given to the patient soon after symptoms begin. However, most doctors don’t treat people with antiviral medications, less than 1 in 6 people who are severely sick with the flu actually get them. Antiviral medications are so important. They can reduce symptoms, shorten the length of time of the illness, and may potentially keep people from having to go to the hospital.
Long story short, to prevent suffering from the flu, you should do all of the following:
1) Keep your hands, utensils, etc. clean.
2) Watch closely for any symptoms.
3) Just get the vaccine, it’s the best thing you can do to prevent the flu.