2018 flu season more dangerous and deadly

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2018 flu season more dangerous and deadly

A particularly nasty flu bug has hit every corner of the country hard so far in 2018. This year’s flu season is now widespread in every state across the United States with the exception of Hawaii.  It is believed to have reached its peak but health experts still warn it will take many more weeks before the flu activity shows any signs of retreating.  Not only did the flu start early but it appears to have simultaneously spread across the country in record speed.

Authorities from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are warning that this has been one of the worst flu seasons in years with about 30 to 50 percent more flu cases than the previous 2 to 3 years.  Young children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65 are especially vulnerable to the virus causing a higher incidence of hospitalizations and death.  So far in the first week of 2018, a total of 20 children have died from the flu which is dominated by the H3N2 strain linked to more severe illness. 

Hospitals are feeling the brunt of the flu season with increases of adults over the age of 50 and children under the age of 5 being admitted.  California hospitals have been particularly hard hit and some have even had to refer patients to other hospital emergency rooms.

Experts had warned that this year’s flu season was likely to be worse than in previous years, and so far they have been right.  It was reported earlier that the vaccine given was only about 10 percent effective as what was shown in Australia – but now the estimates have been revised to be a little higher in the 30 percent range.  Vaccine effectiveness typically ranges from 40 to 60 percent in a good year.

Nonetheless, this is little consolation for those who have lost loved ones to the flu this season or have had to endure its wrath.

Every year, the CDC strongly recommends everyone 6 months of age and older to get a flu shot.  It does help reduce the odds of contacting the illness along with lessening the severity of the symptoms if you do get sick.  If you have not yet gotten a flu shot, it is not too late as the flu season still has about 3 months to go.  Be mindful that it can take up to two weeks for the body to build up defenses against the flu.  Being immunized for the flu helps prevent it from spreading to those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women and children – all of whom are more likely to have serious consequences from influenza.

To lessen your risk of getting the flu, here are some common sense practices and reminders to help you avoid getting sick and of preventing the spread of it:

·      Avoid contact with anyone who already has the flu or is exhibiting signs of coming down with the flu.

·      If you do get the flu, stay home limiting contact with others as much as possible.  Don’t go to work, to the gym or religious services as you will only be spreading the flu to others.

·      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 frequently and before every meal.  If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

·      Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.  Germs are spread this way.

·      Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

·      Get adequate rest and sleep aiming for at least 7 hours of sleep each night to support a healthy immune system.

·      Regular exercise also gives an extra boost to the immune system.  Being physically active increases circulation and blood flow throughout the body creating a situation where the immune system is better at finding an illness before it spreads.

·      Consume foods high in vitamin D, spend time in the sun and consider taking a supplement of vitamin D 3.  Vitamin D improves the immune system by reducing levels of inflammatory proteins called cytokines as well as increasing antimicrobial proteins that can destroy invading germs and viruses.

·      Eat lots of fruits and vegetables – these foods are loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals again strengthening immune system functioning. 

·      Keep well-hydrated by drinking water and other healthy flu-fighting beverages such as green or turmeric tea, coffee, and 100% juices – all can help reduce inflammation, provide antioxidants, and prevent dehydration.  Proper hydration is important in keeping the mucous membrane lining of the nose moist, acting as our first line of defense. Think of it like sticky flypaper that helps trap things like dirt and bacteria preventing them from getting to the lungs.  If you’re dehydrated, the mucous membrane will dry out making it much less effective in keeping out the flu virus.  Aim for at least 8-10 cups of fluid each day.