3Qs: What to know about this year's flu season
Health officials say this year's flu outbreak is the worst in a decade, and Boston on Wednesday declared a public health emergency as the flu epidemic worsened. Forty-one states are currently experiencing widespread flu activity, and Massachusetts is one of 29 states reporting high levels of flu-like illness. We asked Mark Douglass, an associate clinical professor of pharmacy in the Bouvé College of Health Sciences, how people can protect themselves from the flu and why they should get vaccinated if they haven't already.
What has accounted for the spike in flu activity this year, and how do health officials account for the new strain each year?
The reasons behind the increase in this year's flu activity are not definitively clear at this time and can be the result of several factors. However, we are seeing increased physician office visits and hospitalizations which could be due to a more severe circulating flu strain this year. Additionally, there may several individuals who either delayed or decided not to obtain the flu vaccine after a very mild 2011–2012 flu season.
The composition of the vaccine itself changes from year to year, and these changes are based on laboratory data and estimates provided by experts at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the Food and Drug Administration on the flu virus activity patterns around the world.
The data that has been gathered so far for the 2012–13 flu season indicates that this year's flu vaccine will provide good protection for the most common strains of the circulating flu virus.
What symptoms should people be on the lookout for, and how can people protect themselves from getting the flu?
Flu-like symptoms can vary from person to person, but many people with the flu will experience a cough, sore throat, runny nose, chills or sweating, fever, headache, general body aches and pains, and a general feeling of fatigue or exhaustion. Most people can expect their flu symptoms to persist from a few days or for up to two weeks. Because influenza is a virus and not a bacteria, antibiotics do not work against the flu, so they should not be prescribed or taken for this condition.
The best protection against the flu is to minimize your risk of coming into contact with the virus. The flu virus can easily be spread by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and inhaling the aerosolized droplets from people coughing or sneezing nearby.
Here are some steps to minimize your risk: Get a flu vaccine; wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20–30 seconds or use gel hand sanitizers as an alternative; avoid touching your face to minimize getting the virus through your mouth and nose; keep your distance from those who are sick; and don't share common household items like keyboards, remotes, or phones.
And remember, cover your nose and mouth when coughing, and stay home if you have the flu to avoid passing it on to others.
You noted that some people are reluctant to get the flu vaccine. What is recommended, and is it too late to get one now?
An annual influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of six months and especially those who are at high risk of developing the flu, including children, the elderly, pregnant women, or those with chronic diseases.
It is not too late to get the vaccine. Flu season typically begins in the fall and can persist into March and April, but can be as late as May. There is an intranasal formulation available for those who may be squeamish about needles.
Despite the benefits of the flu vaccine, a common misconception exists that the flu vaccine causes the flu. This is simply false. Influenza vaccine is manufactured from a dead or inactivated form of the flu virus. Individuals who develop the flu shortly after receiving the vaccine could have contracted the flu just before, or shortly after, vaccine administration. It is important to note that the maximum benefits of the flu vaccine can take up to two weeks to develop while the body establishes immunity to the flu virus strains.
Provided by Northeastern University
- No Excuses: Flu vaccination myths addressed Oct 12, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Flu season came early but too soon to say it's bad Jan 10, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
- Flu season off to latest start in decades Feb 17, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Mexico health sec: Swine flu way up after low year Jan 31, 2012 | not rated yet | 0
- Validation for flu prediction Jan 08, 2013 | not rated yet | 0
- Motion perception revisited: High Phi effect challenges established motion perception assumptions Apr 23, 2013 | 3 / 5 (2) | 2
- Anything you can do I can do better: Neuromolecular foundations of the superiority illusion (Update) Apr 02, 2013 | 4.5 / 5 (11) | 5
- The visual system as economist: Neural resource allocation in visual adaptation Mar 30, 2013 | 5 / 5 (2) | 9
- Separate lives: Neuronal and organismal lifespans decoupled Mar 27, 2013 | 4.9 / 5 (8) | 0
- Sizing things up: The evolutionary neurobiology of scale invariance Feb 28, 2013 | 4.8 / 5 (10) | 14
Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras
Apr 15, 2011 I'd like to open a discussion thread for version 2 of the draft of my book ''Classical and Quantum Mechanics via Lie algebras'', available online at http://lanl.arxiv.org/abs/0810.1019 , and for the...
- More from Physics Forums - Independent Research
More news stories
Authorities are investigating rice mills in southern China following tests that found almost half of the staple grain in one of the country's largest cities was contaminated with a toxic metal.
Health 1 hour ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
The warning images Brussels proposes to include on tobacco packages in order to reduce consumption do not make the desired impact on smokers because they only find some of them really unpleasant. So, if the ...
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Ten years after the Iraq war of 2003 a team of scientists based in Mosul, northern Iraq, have detected high levels of uranium contamination in soil samples at three sites in the province of Nineveh which, coupled with dramatically ...
Health 2 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
When it comes to men's sexual health, dirty jokes may just be the best medicine. A QUT researcher is helping Family Planning Queensland (FPQ) use comedy and YouTube to deliver sexuality education to young ...
Health 3 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
(Medical Xpress)—International researchers are studying the salt intake of Indian adults to provide vital new data to aid the development of a national salt reduction strategy.
Health 4 hours ago | not rated yet | 0
Delayed transfer to the intensive care unit (ICU) in hospitalized patients significantly increases the risk of dying in the hospital, according to a new study from researchers in Chicago.
54 minutes ago | not rated yet | 0
The surgical management of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) in U.S. hospitals varies widely depending on the race of the patient, according to a new study.
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
In a remote fishing community in Venezuela, a lone fisherman sits on a cliff overlooking the southern Caribbean Sea. This man –– the lookout –– is responsible for directing his comrades on the water, ...
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0 |
A novel approach to obstructing the runaway inflammatory response implicated in some types of asthma has shown promise in a Phase IIa clinical trial, according to U. S. researchers.
1 hour ago | not rated yet | 0
Scientists from Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Lund University, Sweden, have bioengineered a novel molecule which has been proven to successfully kill tumour cells.
1 hour ago | 5 / 5 (1) | 0
Johns Hopkins researchers say they have discovered specific chemical alterations in two genes that, when present during pregnancy, reliably predict whether a woman will develop postpartum depression.
6 hours ago | not rated yet | 0 |