Flu season is in full swing, and public health experts say it’s going to be a doozy in 2017. As Self reports, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “noted a slow but steady increase” in reported flu cases in November and early December, and things are only expected to get worse in coming weeks, CDC officials announced.
The U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet)—which is made up of more than 2800 outpatient healthcare providers across America—tracks the percentage of patients seeking care for influenza-like illnesses and reports them to the CDC each week. Recently, more patients have exhibited flu-like symptoms than normal, officials say. The CDC also noted that the percentage of respiratory specimens in clinical laboratories testing positive for influenza is on the rise.
Not only are more people getting sick with the flu, they're being infected with influenza A viruses, also known as H3N2. In past flu seasons, H3N2 has been linked with more hospitalizations and deaths than other strains, so it’s considered more serious than other flu types—particularly for kids and seniors. “While it’s not possible to predict which influenza viruses will predominate for the entire 2016-2017 influenza season, if H3N2 viruses continue to circulate widely, older adults and young children may be more severely impacted,” the CDC said.
Want a flu-free winter? Wash your hands frequently, avoid sick friends and co-workers, get prompt treatment with antiviral drugs if you do fall ill—and get a flu shot. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get their annual flu shot. It's not too late, as the flu season peaks between December and March. However, the vaccine does takes about two weeks to be fully effective, so sooner is better than later.
If you're wary of getting a flu shot, we’ll dispel a few misconceptions that might be preventing you from taking the plunge: No, a flu shot doesn’t give you the flu. No, it's not dangerous for pregnant women. And yes, you can still get a flu shot if you’re allergic to eggs (but be sure to speak up if that's the case, because the medical professional may need to take extra precautions).
Unfortunately, the flu shot you received last flu season will not protect you in the coming months. There are many types of flu, and each year, certain strains are more prevalent than others. That’s why scientists and public health officials formulate new vaccines.
So go forth, get vaccinated, and stay healthy—but if the worst-case scenario occurs and you do catch the flu, make sure to protect your colleagues from your illness by taking sick days as needed.