While the medical community anticipates the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) to major regions of the United States, flu season remains underway with the latest data being reported by the CDC.
So far this season, there have been 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths from flu, of which 105 are pediatric--a higher total at this point of the year than any season in the past decade.
The CDC reports that the percentage of deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia is 6.8%, which is below the epidemic threshold of 7.3%. But this year's strain is unusual compared to previous years.
This year, Influenza B appeared earlier than usual. Traditionally, Influenza A appears earlier than Influenza B, but that was not the case to begin 2020.
According to the CDC, roughly 70% of early flu cases were Influenza B and about 30% were been caused by Influenza A.
Both strains of influenza cause typical flu symptoms, like fever, fatigue, body aches, chills, sore throat, and cough--and it’s unlikely patients would be able to tell the difference between the two without a lab test.
However, Influenza B is slower to develop, which is why it typically appears later in the season. It’s also more likely to affect children and younger adults instead of the elderly. This could explain why more people have been infected with the flu this year over previous years but the number of hospitalizations and deaths have decreased.
The flu shot is developed at the start of each season to protect from strains of the flu. More than 170 million doses of the flu vaccine have been administered to fight this year's virus.
So far in 2020, the vaccine is reducing doctor's visits by 45% overall and 55% in children. The CDC reports that hospitalization rates are consistent with previous years, but rates among children and young adults are higher this season compared to recent seasons.
"The vaccine has significantly reduced medical visits associated with influenza so far this season," the CDC announced in its February 21 report.
Lynnette Brammer of the CDC notes that if you have received your vaccine, you don’t need to get a second shot (except children under the age of 9 who are getting vaccinated for the first time).
“While it’s possible to get the flu even if you get the shot, vaccination reduces your risk of getting sick and may lessen the severity of the symptoms if you do.”
Flu comes hard and fast. While there is no cure for the flu, there are several ways you can alleviate flu symptoms for a more comfortable recovery.
1. Drink Liquids
One way to help your body recover from the flu is to stay hydrated. When you’re sick, your temperature increases and you become dehydrated, causing a myriad of issues like the chills, sweats, dizziness, and thirst.
Water is always best, but low-sugar sports drinks that contain electrolytes can also help you replenish nutrients and calories.
Your body can better fight infection when it is in a sleep state, according to a new study by Rockefeller University Press. The study shows that during sleep, the body’s immune cells attach to infected cells and fight off the virus.
With the flu, it’s recommended that you get as much rest as possible, always stay home from work until you are symptom-free for 24 hours, and do as little physical excursion as possible.
“Medications like Tamiflu is an option for alleviating flu symptoms,” said Dr. Christine Cameron, Primary Care Physician at Medina Family Medicine.
Tamiflu attacks the flu virus in your body, prevents it from multiplying, and reduces flu symptoms. However, Tamiflu is only effective for patients who have tested positive for the flu. Antihistamines and decongestants can also help reduce nasal swelling and itchy, watery eyes.
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