What will the 2019-2020 flu season bring?
No two flu seasons are alike. Some years are relatively mild, while others result in a pandemic, like the swine flu that wrapped around the globe in 2009.
We have all the information you need to know as well as important advice about how to avoid the flu. We also bust a few myths about the flu vaccine.
When Does Flu Season Start?
While flu seasons tend to vary from year to year, typically in the United States, most cases of the flu occur in the fall and winter.
However, you can still catch the flu at any time of year, which is why the vaccine is so important. The months that show the most flu activity are December, January and February.
The Centers for Disease Control compiled data on the peak months for the last 36 flu seasons. Most flu seasons peaked in February, however, December easily came in second place.
The Truth About the Flu Vaccine
There’s a lot of misinformation about the flu vaccine, starting with the most common falsehood that the shot causes the flu. It does not.
This is because the vaccine uses an inactive or “dead” virus. The flu shot is important because it helps your body develop antibodies to fight it.
But wait, you have a friend, cousin or relative who felt so terrible after the vaccine that he or she ended up with the flu. Well, that may have been the case, but it wasn’t due to the flu shot.
In many instances, someone may have already contracted the flu virus before getting the shot. Remember that it can take up to two weeks for flu-like symptoms to surface.
It’s also a good reminder that there are several different types of viruses that are very similar to the flu, but are not influenza. Additionally, it can take the flu shot as long as two weeks before it can become fully effective.
If you’d like to test your current flu knowledge, we’ve compiled a quiz for you.
You can also take a look at some of these flu vaccine FAQs that can help you make informed decisions about your health care.
BUT DOESN’T THE VACCINE ONLY PROTECT AGAINST ONE STRAIN OF FLU?
Actually, it protects against three or four strains of influenza that research indicates will be the most common.
The strains are selected based upon information from the World Health Organization and the CDC, which then compile information to determine which flu strains appear to be the most prevalent this year.
The composition of all the U.S. flu vaccines is evaluated every year and updated to be sure they match the viruses that are circulating.
For 2019-2020, the three-component vaccines will contain the following strain of inactive viruses:
- A/Brisbane/02/2018 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus (updated)
- A/Kansas/14/2017 (H3N2)-like virus (updated)
- B/Colorado/06/2017-like (Victoria lineage) virus
Raleigh Medical Group carries the four-component vaccine quadrivalent.
If you’d like to see a graphical representation of how the flu virus attacks your body, you can check out these images of the virus from the CDC.
Is there anyone who should not get the flu vaccine?
According to the CDC, the flu shot should not be given to:
- Those who are younger than six months
- Those who have had life-threatening allergies or reactions to the vaccine or any ingredient in it
- Those with egg allergies should speak with their doctors about special considerations they should evaluate
- Those who have or have ever had Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a serious, paralyzing illness
- Those who are sick
Important Flu Facts You Can’t Afford to Ignore
Most healthy people who get the flu recover after a few weeks of feeling miserable. However, there are those for which the flu can be life-threatening, particularly the very young, the elderly, and those who are immunocompromised. The flu kills between 4,000 and 50,000 people in the United States each year.
In the 2017-2018 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control reported that more than 80,000 people died as a result of influenza and accompanying complications.
The U.S. economy also feels the pain of flu season. The burden of the flu is around $87 billion, including $16 billion in lost wages. As if that weren’t enough, the flu also results in an estimated 31.4 million outpatient visits.
Those who are at the highest risk of developing serious, flu-related complications are:
- Those who are pregnant
Those 64 and older
Children younger than 5 years of age
Residents of long-term care facilities
Anyone with a weakened immune system
People with chronic, serious medical conditions such as: Asthma, Lung disease, Heart disease, HIV/AIDS, Cancer
Remember, even if you do not fall into one of those categories, someone you know and love might. Therefore, a flu vaccine doesn’t only protect you, it can also protect those you love—no one wants to be the person who spreads influenza to someone whose body is ill-equipped to fight it.
In addition, it’s important to realize that you can spread the flu five to seven days after you’ve become sick, and most people are most contagious three to four days after the flu begins.
Remember that those with weakened immune systems or even the very young may be contagious longer.
Those with the flu can spread it from as far as six feet away.
A Review of Flu Symptoms
You’re probably already familiar with the long litany of flu symptoms. Everything from a cough to a runny nose to body aches can be indicative of influenza. However, there are a few things you should know.
First, not everyone with the flu will have a fever. Second, children are much more likely to have vomiting and diarrhea than adults when they catch the flu.
If you’re having difficulty telling if you’re coming down with a bad cold or if you have the flu, just remember that, unlike a cold, the flu comes on suddenly.
Let’s take a quick review of the common flu symptoms:
Runny or stuffy nose
How to Avoid Getting the Flu
A good defense can go a long way toward ensuring you don’t catch the flu this fall. There are several things you can do to minimize your chances of getting the flu:
1. Get a flu vaccine.
The CDC recommends getting vaccinated by the end of October. Getting a vaccine is important for those at high risk of complications from the flu.
2. Be proactive in keeping germs from spreading.
This means limiting contact with those who are sick and adhering to the following protocols:
- Wash your hands thoroughly, especially if you’ve been in communal areas or near someone who is sick.
- Avoid touching your nose or eyes after being around areas where you could have been exposed to the flu.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze, and encourage others to do so as well.
- After sneezing or coughing, wash your hands immediately.
3. Make a pact with your coworkers.
This is a simple pact: don’t come to work sick. Encourage your coworkers to stay at home if they’re experiencing flu-like symptoms. Likewise, you shouldn’t “tough it out” by going to work when you think you’re coming down with the flu. This is one important way to be sure your office not only remains healthy, but remains productive.
Trust us, your coworkers will thank you!
How is the Flu Spread?
The flu is spread when people sneeze, cough or talk. These droplets land in the mouths and noses of other people where they can be inhaled into the lungs.
Sometimes, you can catch the flu by touching a contaminated object and then touching the nose or eyes.
What to Do If You Have the Flu
This is something we cannot emphasize enough: The flu is a virus. Therefore, antibiotics won’t help.
The overuse of antibiotics has caused some serious public health hazards, particularly the development and prevalence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, also called “super bugs.”
In most cases, if you are a reasonably healthy person with an un-compromised immune system, the flu will run its course.
The Latest News on the 2019-2020 Flu Season
Unless you have a crystal ball, there’s no way to tell exactly what the next flu season has in store, but we have some useful information that gives a hint.
As of publication, the Centers for Disease Control has indicated that from October 2018 through May 2019 there were an estimated 42.9 million flu illnesses, resulting in 20 million medical visits.
Flu activity typically picks up again in October, and these numbers are likely to increase as 2019 winds down.
In North Carolina, the flu season that ran from Sept. 2018 to May 2019 showed 208 flu deaths, with an additional 2 more deaths reported the week of May 12, 2019. These figures will be constantly updated. Any flu deaths after September 30, 2019, will become a part of the flu statistics for the 2019-2020 season.
The latest CDC reports show that North Carolina has no widespread flu activity, however, its neighboring states of South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia and Tennessee show sporadic activity. Currently, the only state showing widespread activity is Massachusetts.
However, these figures are suspected to change to show an increase in flu activity after September 2019. You can follow these updates yourself on the CDC’s flu weekly updates.
To be sure you keep up-to-date on the most recent statistics, you can visit the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services as a resource for information specifically dedicated to the most recent information, as well as some useful data on the flu vaccination.
You can even access more detailed weekly data updates through the Centers for Disease Control’s “Flu View.”
Updates for the 2020 Flu Season [Updated: March 2020]
North Carolina and the Triangle area are continuing to see widespread flu activity this year. In our state, as of March 5, there have been a total of 127 flu deaths this flu season.
After falling for the first two weeks of the year, the incidents of the flu have dramatically increased over the weeks from Jan. 27 to Feb. 14. Since then, it has dipped only slightly in early March.
North Carolina is seeing flu activity that is higher than last year, but not quite as high as the 2017-2018 flu season. It is one of several states that are experiencing high levels of influenza-like illnesses across the country.
All of our Raleigh Medical Group offices are seeing an increase in those with the flu or flu-like illnesses.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu activity in the United States is high and will continue to remain so for several weeks. Nationwide, more than 173 million doses of flu vaccinations have been distributed.
We’d like to remind you that one of the best defenses against the flu is a flu shot in addition to washing your hands thoroughly – particularly if you’ve been around someone with the flu or you’ve been caring for someone who is sick.
Finally, please remember that if you’re sick, please stay at home instead of going to work or school. This is important in order to keep the flu from spreading.
If you want the latest flu information updates, following are some useful resources:
Flu activity nationwide (Centers for Disease Control)
North Carolina flu activity (NC Department of Health and Human Services)
GOT MORE QUESTIONS ABOUT THE FLU? ASK US
If you’re not sure if you have the flu or you’re concerned about flu activity in our area, please speak with us. Remember, the flu is a virus, so antibiotics will not be effective in fighting it.
We’ve been providing care for Triangle residents for more than 40 years, so we’ve seen a lot of flu seasons come and go.
While each one presents its unique set of challenges, one thing remains the same: We are dedicated to your health and well-being.
We want to work with you to help you avoid getting the flu by getting a vaccine. If you do get the flu, we’re available to you to provide any information or help you need.
Get a head start on flu season. Schedule an appointment for a vaccination today.