Although it’s the end of January, flu season doesn’t show any signs of letting up. The season started early, the whole country is still experiencing widespread flu activity, and it looks like it will continue for a while, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“In the past, if you look at seasons like this one that we’re having, there’s at least 11 to 13 more weeks of influenza to go,” CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald said at a January 12 flu update briefing.
If you haven’t gotten the flu vaccine, it’s not too late. Experts say that some protection is better than none. And if other strains of the flu start to surface, the vaccine can help protect you. Also, the vaccine can help reduce the severity of your illness. CDC recommends everyone six months and older get the vaccine.
CDC also suggests other preventative measures:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Disinfect surfaces and objects (such as TV remote control).
The predominant strain of the flu this season is H3N2, which is associated with making more people sick, as well as is linked to more hospitalizations, deaths, and severe illnesses. Those most affected by H3N2 are the very young, the very old, and those with underlying conditions, according to the CDC.
As compared to a cold, flu symptoms come on suddenly. You may feel feverish, have a cough and sore throat, as well as a have runny or stuffy nose, body aches, a headache, and fatigue. If you’re already sick with the flu, take steps to ease your symptoms and avoid spreading the illness to others. Here are some suggestions:
- Limit contact with others and stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze and cough, then throw out the tissue in the trash and wash your hands.
- Be sure to rest.
- Drink clear fluids such as herbal tea, water, and broths.
A January 25 Washington Post article also suggested isolating your toothbrush, laundering bedding frequently, and cleaning your humidifier.
If you have severe symptoms or are in the high-risk category (very young or old, or have an underlying condition), you may want to consult your doctor regarding antiviral drugs. If taken 48 hours after the illness begins, they can help reduce symptoms and shorten the time you’re sick by one day, according to the CDC.
Remember to always check your doctor’s license on the Medical Board of California’s website, www.mbc.ca.gov.