The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that can be caused by several influenza virus strains. Symptoms of the flu usually appear abruptly, and include headache, cough, fever, chills, and body aches. Influenza can cause severe complications – especially in children, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems – making it a serious public health concern.
Due to a variation in factors like weather, vaccination rates, and mutation of the virus, the flu season is different every year. Here is a summary of the U.S. flu season as of mid-January, 2020.
What’s different about this flu season?
While you can get the flu any time of year, it is usually most prolific from October to March or April. Typically. Influenza A viruses are most common through the early part of the flu season, and influenza B becomes active near the end of the season. This year, however, influenza B arrived earlier than normal and is spreading quickly across the country. With children being the most vulnerable to influenza B, this flu season has hit them particularly hard.
How is influenza affecting people, especially children?
Influenza complications can affect the heart, lower respiratory tract and central nervous system, sometimes resulting in death. Each year, thousands of children are hospitalized due to influenza, and dozens die. Many of these children were in great health before they contracted the flu. In the U.S., more than 30 children have already died from the flu this year.
A prominent case that has drawn the attention of the public is that of a 4-year-old girl who became very sick with the flu in Iowa, just before Christmas. Previously a healthy child, Jade DeLucia suffered a life-threatening case of encephalopathy (brain damage) as a result of the Victoria strain of influenza B. Fortunately, she survived, but is now blind as a result of brain damage. Jade did not receive the latest flu vaccine that could have provided protection against the flu.
How can I protect myself and my child against the flu?
Jade DeLucia’s story stands as a crucial reminder of the importance of vaccinating yourself and your children every flu season. If your last vaccination was in the spring or earlier, it will not provide protection for the current season. We recommend getting a vaccination for yourself and your children as soon as possible to protect against this year’s strains of influenza A and B.
Due to influenza’s ability to constantly mutate and evolve, no vaccine provides 100% protection against the flu, but it does significantly reduce your chance of contracting the virus. More importantly, even if you or your child gets the flu, the vaccine is highly effective at reducing the severity of the illness. This means that life-threatening complications are much less likely to occur in your child if they receive the flu shot. Studies have shown that children who receive the flu vaccine are 74% less likely to be admitted to the pediatric ICU, and are much less likely to die from the flu.
Getting the flu vaccine doesn’t just protect you – it also protects those whose immune systems are too weak to receive the vaccine. The more people who are immune to the flu, the less chance the flu virus has to spread and evolve.
In addition to getting vaccinated, some healthy habits to help prevent you from getting sick are: washing your hands frequently, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your coughs or sneezes, staying home when you’re sick, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
Where can I get my flu shot?
Physicians Immediate Care offers a quadrivalent flu vaccine. This is the only type of vaccine that protects against two types of influenza A and both types of influenza B. The vaccine we use is cell-based, producing a vaccine whose inactivated viruses are likely to be most similar to the flu viruses that are currently circulating.
The quadrivalent flu vaccine will be available at Physicians Immediate Care until the end of March, but we recommend getting your flu shot as soon as possible. To make getting the care you need easier, we are proud to offer extended hours and short wait times at more than 40 clinics. Simply reserve a time online or visit a clinic near you to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu.
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