Flu Season 2019 – 2020

Like me, you are probably hearing of someone you know being diagnosed with the flu seemingly daily. It is as bad as ever this year, possibly even worse as infection rates continue to rise. To date, the CDC is reporting elevated activity for about eight weeks:

  • visits to doctors for flu-like symptoms increased by almost 2% this week
  • the number of pediatric deaths from influenza this year is up to 27
  • there have been an estimated 6.4 million flu illnesses
  • there have been about 55,000 hospitalizations for flu related illness
  • 2,900 deaths so far

Here are a couple of reminders:

1. If you got the flu shot, you can still get the flu. There are many strains, and only some are represented in the flu vaccine.

2. The vaccine is important because it will limit your chance of getting sick, and the more people in a community who are vaccinated, the more contained the spread. If you get the flu and have had the flu shot, your symptoms may be less severe and your risk of flu-related complications is less. You can still get the vaccine, but it takes about two weeks to kick in.

3. Early symptoms of the flu are extreme fatigue, body aches and a cough. As it progresses, the cough may worsen, a patient may start to wheeze, fever will develop and symptoms such as a sore throat will develop.

4. People usually develop flu symptoms in about 2 days after exposure (1-4 days total) and are contagious one day before onset of symptoms and for 5-7 days after.

5. Tamiflu is an antiviral prescription medication which can minimize flu symptoms and shorten the duration of the illness. It works when taken within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. This is important. IF YOU THINK YOU HAVE THE FLU, BE TESTED SO YOU CAN GET AN ANTIVIRAL ON BOARD. If you have been exposed to the flu, Tamiflu can help prevent you from becoming sick.

6. Your doctor can diagnose the flu based on symptoms or history of exposure, but there is also a rapid flu test, done much like a strep test, but usually by swabbing the inside of the nose.

The flu is spreading fast in all of our communities. Remember to prevent the spread of germs as much as possible by washing your hands, staying away from people who are sick, and maintaining a healthy diet. Do NOT go near older people, infants or people who are immunocompromised if you think you have been exposed to the flu. It is in these populations, the flu can go from a bad illness to a severe one very quickly.

Check out the video below for some helpful tips on avoiding illness this season.

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Author: Karen Latimer

Dr. Latimer is a Family Physician and Wellness & Parenting Coach. She works with parents who want to feel more confident when helping their children and coaches young adults to help them better navigate college life and transitions. Contact her at drkarenlatimer@gmail.com to learn more. She is the author of two Audible Originals, Take Back the House -- Raising Happy Parents and Worry Less, Parent Better. She is also the co-founder of the app that makes your life easier and puts social in a healthier place -- List'm.