Flu season is in full swing and the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports flu cases double this year compared to 2016. Every year in the United States, millions of people get the flu, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized, and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related illnesses.
Normally, flu season begins in mid- to late-December and peaks in January or February, Paul Sax, an infectious disease physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, told USA Today.
The primary strain of flu this year appears to be H3N2, which can be particularly hard on the elderly. "The New England Journal of Medicine released an article that says this year's vaccine is only about 10 percent effective". "We really encourage you to wash your hands frequently and when you're coughing try to cover your mouth... all those good hand hygiene things that we try to encourage patients", she said. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick.
Some people are more susceptible to getting the flu. "In fact, in a year where it's low effectiveness, it's even more important that everybody get it so we can get as much resistance and we don't allow the virus to thrive and grow and keep changing".
That is because the vaccine is not as effective in preventing H3N2, which is expected to be the dominate strain.
Of course, they also recommend common health practices like always washing your hands, and sneezing into a tissue or your elbow.
"This is the time of year when we talk about influenza and how unsafe it can be", said Matt Richardson, DCPH director, in a prepared statement. "In a bad year, it can be in the teens", said Cincinnati Health Department epidemiologist Dr. Steven Englender. These steps will help prevent respiratory viruses, including influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and rhinovirus. That is why is strongly encouraging people to get their flu shot.
It takes about two weeks after receiving a flu shot to develop antibodies against the virus.
Some people are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, including infants, children, elders and people with certain chronic health issues.