We’re officially in 2019’s flu season. According to the Center for Disease Control, 24 states are now classified as having widespread flu issues. Flu activity generally increases each year in October, peaks from December to February, and persists into May.
Last year’s flu season was particularly bad, resulting in almost 49 million reported illnesses and more than 79,000 flu-related deaths. While these statistics might worry you about what’s in store this year, it’s impossible to predict what each new flu season will bring. However, it’s speculated that one of the major reasons for last year’s epidemic impact is that not enough people were vaccinated.
Best step for you: get a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu. Concerns about how effective the vaccine is — or isn’t — shouldn’t deter you. No flu vaccine is 100 percent effective but if you and everyone around you are vaccinated, your community starts to develop what is referred to as a herd immunity, which helps keep everyone healthy — especially young children and the elderly, who are especially susceptible to the virus.
What’s different about this year’s vaccine? The 2019 vaccine protects against four strains of the flu virus, while past years’ vaccinations protected against only three. The vaccine provides protection against two strains of influenza A (the type that usually causes more severe illness) and two strains of the influenza B. In addition, the vaccine has been updated to better protect against the strains of virus currently circulating.
What if you already have the flu? It’s important to see your doctor for prompt diagnosis and treatment. Antiviral medications are available to help reduce symptoms, shorten the duration and prevent complications. But remember, they’re most effective when taken within two days of the onset of flu symptoms. See your doctor for a flu vaccine or if you already have symptoms and can’t get out, consider visiting http://www.virtualcaremi.com. You can quickly set up an online visit with an Ascension or Trinity Health provider to help diagnose and treat the flue including filling prescriptions.