Influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been most common this season. H3N2-predominant seasons have tended to be more severe. However, other flu viruses are circulating too, contributing to serious illnesses. This season, the highest hospitalization rates have been in people 65 years and older, followed by people 50-64 years, then children 0-4 years of age. About 90% of influenza A-related hospitalizations in people 65 and older have been associated with H3N2 virus infections. About 20% of influenza A-related hospitalizations in people 50-64 have been associated with H1N1 virus infections. This is the H1N1 virus that emerged in 2009 to cause a pandemic and that had a big impact on younger people at that time.
Here are some important things to know right now to protect yourself and your loved ones from flu:
1. What are the symptoms of flu?
Flu viruses can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults
* It's important to note that not everyone with flu will have a fever.
2. What do I do if I get sick?
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get flu symptoms, in most cases you should stay home and avoid contact with other people, except to get medical care.
CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.
3. Is it too late to get a flu shot?
No! As long as flu viruses are still circulating, it is not too late to get a flu shot. Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent flu illness and serious flu complications, including those that can result in hospitalization. Unfortunately, flu vaccines don't work as well against H3N2 viruses, which means that some people who got vaccinated will still get sick; however, there are some data to suggest that flu vaccination may make illness milder. Flu vaccines usually work better against H1N1 viruses, which is another good reason to get vaccinated, since H1N1 is circulating too.
4. Why should I get a flu shot?
In addition to protecting yourself, getting vaccinated also protects people around you, including people who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health conditions.
5. Does the flu shot work?
Vaccine effectiveness data for this season are not available yet, but we know that flu vaccines do not work as well against H3N2 viruses, which are predominant so far this season.
6. What else can I do to protect myself from flu?
Definitely try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you do get sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing drugs (unless you need medical care or other necessities).
Other tips for stopping the spread of germs:
- Make sure you 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way!
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
If you have the emergency warning signs of flu sickness, you should go to the emergency room.
* Fast breathing or trouble breathing
* Bluish skin color
* Not drinking enough fluids
* Not waking up or not interacting
* Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
* Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough
* Fever with a rash;
In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:
* Being unable to eat
* Has trouble breathing
* Has no tears when crying
* Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal;
* Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
* Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
* Sudden dizziness
* Severe or persistent vomiting
* Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough