You probably know someone that has come down with some sort of illness over the past month or so. Maybe you even had symptoms, yourself. Chances are, the disease that pulled your friend out of class for a few days was the flu.
Influenza season is in full swing and is supposed to be a nasty one, according to the Center for Disease Control and Protection, CDC. So far, 27 states and 61 countries have reported high “influenza-like” symptoms and activity.
Symptoms of this year include a high fever, coughing, sore throat, runny and/or stuffy nose, headaches, and fatigue. Severe cases may include nausea and vomiting.
Dan Jernigan, an influenza specialist at the CDC, says, “Flu is everywhere in the U.S. right now. There’s lots of flu in lots of places.”
However, the season still has yet to peak.
Millions of Americans have already tested positive for the flu since the beginning of its outbreak in late December, but the number of cases are expected to be at their height in mid-February.
Around 80% of those cases have involved the H3N2 strain, which was targeted by this season’s influenza vaccine.
The H3N2 strain is particularly severe, as it causes heightened symptoms and increased death rates among the affected. The virus is also tricky to prevent, even with the flu vaccine. This is because H3N2 mutates as it moves through the population, making it hard to track and base the shot around.
CNN reports that experts have pegged the effectiveness of this year’s vaccine at around 30%, significantly lower than the average of 40-60%.
Despite the large number of people affected by flu season so far, it’s not too late to get your flu shots. Vaccines are available for free from medical clinics at local drugstores, such as Walgreens and CVS, and local employer health services.
Regardless of whether or not you have had the shot or you plan to, it is important to remember that personal hygiene is also crucial to avoid the flu.
Wash your hands (more than you think you need to), and avoid touching your face area, including your eyes, nose, and mouth.
If you start to feel ill, alert your doctor and stay home from school. Don’t risk your friends’ health by exposing them to germs.
Stay healthy, Scotties!