Seasonal flu activity has been intense this season. As of February 16, 2018 most of the United States continues to experience intense and widespread flu activity, with record-breaking levels of influenza-like-illness and hospitalization rates recorded. While H3N2 viruses are still most common, there is an increasing number of influenza B viruses being detected. It’s not uncommon for second waves of B virus activity to occur during a flu season. It’s likely that flu activity will continue for several more weeks.
Here are some important things to know right now to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu:
1. What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
* It’s important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
2. What do I do if I get sick?
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.
CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.
3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?
No! As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot. Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don’t work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.
4. Why should I get a flu shot?
In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
5. Does the flu shot work?
Vaccine effectiveness data for this season are not available yet, but we know that flu vaccines do not work as well against H3N2 viruses, which are predominant so far this season.
6. What else can I do to protect myself from flu?
Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).
Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:
- Make sure you cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.