As this year’s flu season wages on, it’s important to get your flu facts straight. Common questions and potential misconceptions we hear include:
What can I do to protect myself from the flu?
Are flu vaccines effective?
It’s late in the season, are flu vaccines still available?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers the most up-to-date information on the 2014-2015 flu season. Here are five things you should know about the flu’s current trends:
- Flu seasons fluctuate. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February. However, seasonal flu activity can begin as early as October and continue into May. The CDC reports in the 2014-2015 season that flu activity began increasing in early December and continues to increase into mid-January. The flu season is projected to continue for several weeks.
- This year’s most common strain of flu virus is influenza A (H3N2). H3N2-predominant seasons are associated with more severe illness and mortality, particularly in older people and young children, compared to seasons where H1N1 or B viruses predominated. While the flu vaccine may not work as well as usual against some H3N2 viruses, vaccination can still protect people and reduce hospitalizations and death.
- Flu can be more dangerous for certain groups. Children, seniors, pregnant women, American Indians and Alaskan Natives and people with chronic conditions are considered high-risk for developing serious illness from the flu. The first line of defense for these more susceptible groups is the flu shot.
- Influenza antiviral drugs are recommended to treat flu illness. Antiviral drugs are prescription medicines that fight against the flu in your body. When used for treatment, they can lesson symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days. The CDC recommends antiviral drugs to be used to treat people who are very sick, as well as those considered at high risk of serious flu complications.
- It’s not too late to get your flu shot. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age or older. While flu shots became available in October, they are effective and recommended as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community.
Remember, the flu is contagious. If you’ve already received your flu shot, you can work to prevent the illness from spreading further by:
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Washing your hands with soap and water.
- Practicing other good health habits, such as disinfecting touched surfaces, getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and eating well.
For more information about the flu, visit the CDC’s website.