Flu Season is Here – Find Out How to Help You and Your Family Have a Happy, Healthy Holiday Season

With flu season starting, it’s time to get that influenza vaccine if you haven’t done so already.

Why? Well, according to Science Life from The University of Chicago, a new tool helps predict just how widespread the flu bug will be. And this year is expected to be an above average year for an outbreak of the flu but not quite as bad as last year’s season.

Strains of the influenza virus make a significant genetic change every two to three years. That fact alone can be used to estimate how severe a flu season might become.

Another avenue that factors into how bad a flu season might be in the U.S. is to look at Australia, where the flu season hits earlier. A September report revealed the Southern Hemisphere was hit hard with a flu strain known for causing severe illness in senior adults.

On Oct. 30, a report from Public Radio 89.5 in Tulsa, Okla., indicated an extremely early start in this year’s flu season with more than 30 people hospitalized across the state. Officials are also concerned about Texas, Florida and California, which have been hit by extreme weather events – hurricanes and fires – that have displaced many families. Those families may not be following their normal routines for medical checkups, including receiving flu shots. This and the stress of being displaced can make them more vulnerable to catching the flu and spreading it to others.

Officials began asking U.S. residents to get flu vaccinations in late September. Last year, an estimated 47 percent of the U.S. population received flu shots. On average, an estimated 24,000 people die from influenza-related illnesses each year. In Illinois alone, an average of 3,500 deaths have occurred in the past 10 years, according to the Chicago Tribune.

The more people who get vaccinated against influenza, the more people will be protected from catching the virus, which can be deadly – especially for those age 65 and older, very young children, pregnant women and individuals with health conditions – such as asthma, diabetes, heart conditions or serious immune system issues  –  that render them vulnerable to serious flu complications.

How prevalent is the flu?

For the week ending on Nov. 4, an estimated 1.8 percent of the population visited a physician with influenza-like illnesses across the U.S. and its territories. Moderate flu activity has been reported in Louisiana and South Carolina with low activity reported in six states including Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Mississippi, South Dakota and Wyoming. New York City, the District of Columbia and 42 states including Texas have reported minimal activity.

However, influenza activity is increasing. So far this week, six states reported regional flu activity and 13 states reported local influenza activity. What that means is that in the six states with regional activity, more cases were reported over a broader area, indicating a spread of the illness, which is highly contagious.

As of Nov. 4 in Denton County, 28 positive influenza cases have been recorded with eight hospitalizations. Of the positive tests, 17 were classified as Influenza A while 11 were Influenza B.

What shots are available?

For this year’s influenza season, a quadrivalent vaccine is predominantly being given by physicians, pharmacies and at many workplaces.

What is a quadrivalent flu vaccine? It is a shot developed to protect you against four different influenza viruses (including different strains of Influenza A and B). This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are suggesting that you receive a quadrivalent flu shot (which contains inactivated viruses) or a recombinant influenza vaccine (RIV), which uses a vaccine production technology that does not require use of a flu virus.

For this 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC is recommending against using the nasal spray vaccine, which uses live attenuated influenza virus.

Recommendations have also changed in regard to providing flu vaccines for children. A FluLaval Quadrivalent vaccine can be given to infants age six months and older instead of the previous 3 years and older.

A 2017 study showed that infants and young children who receive flu vaccination have a significantly lower risk of dying from the virus.

A few flu facts

Flu season usually occurs in the U.S. in the fall and winter with the peak time generally from November through March.

With the peak time now underway, it is important to schedule a flu vaccination as soon as possible for you and your family members to provide as much protection as possible.

Getting a flu vaccine does not mean you will not catch the flu, but it will lessen its impact and possibly prevent complications. You also cannot catch the flu from the vaccine, since the viruses used to make it are inactive.

This year, an estimated 151 million to 166 million doses of the flu vaccine were manufactured, providing plentiful resources for those seeking vaccination. Each year, influenza affects millions of people and causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.

It takes about two weeks for your body to build immunity from the inactivated viruses in the flu vaccine. Those who receive a flu shot have a 40 percent to 60 percent lower chance of developing a serious illness.

Do you have the flu?

Unlike colds, flu symptoms appear suddenly. Along with fever, you can experience:

  • Severe muscle aches
  • Tiredness and pain around the eyes
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Flushed skin with watery eyes
  • Headache
  • Dry cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny nose

If you believe you might have these symptoms, contact your family physician or schedule an appointment with any of the Rapid Med Urgent Care locations. You can schedule the appointment online and wait at home until you are alerted via text to come in. Influenza is highly contagious. So, it is recommended for you or your family members suffering from flu symptoms to stay home from daycare, work or school.

Better yet, call now to schedule an appointment for a flu shot for you and your entire family.

We want everyone to have a happy and healthy holiday season!

Rapid Med Team
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