Did you get your influenza shot last fall? We hope so, because the 2018 flu season is looking like a rough one.
According to the Florida Department of Health, flu activity is high and has continued to increase over the winter months. The sharp increase has been above peak activity when compared to recent flu seasons, and these increases have been seen in all age groups and all regions of the state. These increases have led to four pediatric influenza-associated deaths in Florida so far this season.
Visits to emergency departments among pregnant women and adults 65 and over, groups considered high-risk for severe complications from influenza infection, are up sharply. With the flu such an issue this season, the Florida Department of Health recommends individuals who are sick to stay home until they are fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
This is not a Florida-specific issue. At least 30 children in the United States have died due to the flu, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. And although it doesn’t count adult deaths, the CDC estimates that 8.2 percent of those for the week ending Jan. 13 were due to pneumonia and influenza — that’s higher than usual.
Added to those scary statistics, the World Health Organization estimates annual flu epidemics result in about 3 to 5 million cases of severe illness globally and 290,000 to 650,000 deaths.
Different strains of influenza circulate each year. This year, influenza A — specifically H3N2 — is especially prevalent, according to the CDC. In years with predominantly H3 viruses, the country tends to see more serious cases of the flu, especially in young children and elderly adults, as well as decreased vaccine effectiveness, resulting in more total infections and more hospitalizations. H3 viruses were also behind the severe flu seasons in 2014-15 and 2012-13.
So, what to do? If you are sick with the flu, the CDC recommends staying home from school or work for at least 24 hours after your fever subsides. Most people are at peak contagiousness in the three or four days after becoming sick, but you may be able to infect others from a day before to seven days after developing symptoms. Which means, don’t hit the movie theater, the grocery store, go to school or go anywhere you might infect others.
And if you’ve not already done so, we strongly recommend getting vaccinated as soon as possible.