It’s not too late to get your flu shot. And you may want it this year — for real.
The flu is now widespread in at least 43 states and several U.S. territories, according to the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This is typical peak flu season, so it’s not out of the ordinary to see the spikes. But the number of people who are visiting their health care providers for influenza-like illness has been at or above the national baseline for eight consecutive weeks — with Influenza A (H3) viruses causing most of the problems.
“This is a season dominated by the H3N2 strain of influenza A and these seasons tend to be predictably worse than seasons dominated by other strains of the virus,” said infectious disease physician Dr. Amesh Adalja, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He is also an affiliated scholar at the John Hopkins University Center for Health Security.
“The vaccine’s efficacy is estimated to be about 42 percent, which is disappointing but better than zero. We desperately need better flu vaccines,” he told LifeZette. But he added, “This year’s vaccine appears well-matched to the dominant strain.”
The flu can be very contagious and spreads through sneeze and cough droplets. It is present on surfaces, including hands, and people can spread it a day before any symptoms show up. Currently, the states hit the hardest include Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, and Wyoming.
Most people who experience mild symptoms do not need to seek immediate medical attention. Instead, stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and rest.
To protect yourself and your family — as the virus can be deadly for the very young, the very old, and those with compromised immune systems — the flu shot is still recommended. Tragically, there have been 20 pediatric deaths reported so far this flu season.
Otherwise, be cautious and know the virus is out there. Wash your hands often with soap and water. Stay away from those who are sick — most experts think flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets when people with flu cough, sneeze, or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs, the CDC reported.
Less often, people might also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it — and then touching their own noses and mouths.
Most people who experience mild symptoms do not need to seek immediate medical attention. Instead, stay home, drink plenty of fluids, and rest. If you go out, chances are you’re going to give it to someone else, possibly someone who can’t afford to get the flu. If you’re having difficulty breathing, however, or you are considered high risk, get to a doctor.