C.N. Staff Writer, Lynee Peebles and Mike Stobee Contributed to this article
The annual flu season touched down in early January, about a month early and the illness is now widespread in 47 states. Many cases are caused by a flu strain that tends to make people sicker. But so far experts say it’s too early to know whether this will end up being a bad season. Maybe not: There are signs the flu may have already peaked in a few states, though it’s too early to tell for sure, health officials say.
How to protect yourself: Besides getting a flu shot, wash hands with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and keep away from sick people. However, if you do get it, your best treatment is to stay home. This protects others from getting it and allows you to get rest. If symptoms persist, see a doctor.
Health officials are urging people 6 months or older get vaccinated. According to health officials the vaccine is 62 percent effective and is well matched to the current circulating strands.
Influenza is not the only bug making people sick. The cold virus and a nasty stomach virus are also going around. It can sometimes be hard to tell the difference, but cold symptoms include stuffy or runny nose, sore throat and sneezing. Flu usually involves fever, along with chills, headache and moderate-to-severe body aches and tiredness. Symptoms can come on rapidly, within three to six hours.
As hospitals deal with the massive influx of sick patients and many pharmacies dole out their last vaccines, the CDC warns that the worst may still be to come.
“Some indicators continue to rise as others have fallen slightly,” Lyn Finelli, chief of surveillance and outbreak response for the CDC’s influenza division. Between 1976 and 2007, the number of deaths per season due to the virus ranged from around 3,000 to 49,000. This season’s outbreak may appear all the worse given that last year’s flu season fell on the milder end of the spectrum.