Flu Season 2017-18: “Off To Tough Start”

Flu Season 2017-18 Already “Tough,” Likely To Worsen

Recent articles in newspapers and stories on TV indicate that the current flu season is “off to a tough start and likely to get more serious,” according to the NBC Nightly News on December 8.

Because the specific virus that appeared during the flu season in Australia is the same flu virus circulating in the United States, health officials worry that the flu season 2017-18 will be severe. So far, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta report that five children have died due to the flu in the United States this season.

According to the CDC website:

Getting an yearly flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu.

What viruses are in the 2017-18 flu vaccine?  There are two major flu viruses – A and B. The three virus vaccine (called Trivalent) includes: A Influenza/Michigan; A Influenza/Hong Kong; and B Influenza/Brisbane. A four virus vaccine adds B Influenza/Phuket (called Quadrivalent).

When Should I Get Vaccinated? Now! It is best to get the “flu shot” before flu begins to spread in your community. It takes about 2 weeks after the shot to develop antibodies in the body that protect against the flu virus.

What If I Am Allergic to Eggs? For those truly allergic to eggs, there is a flu shot grown in cells rather than eggs. This avoids the concern about a life-threatening reaction in those with egg allergies.

What Is Adjuvanted Flu Vaccine? For this flu season, there is a flu vaccine containing an adjuvant for adults 65 years of age or older. It is called FLUAD™. An adjuvant is an ingredient added to the vaccine to create a stronger immune response.

How Long Does the Flu Vaccine Protect Me? Although antibodies to the flu virus decline over time, you are protected throughout the flu season with one shot.

How Effective Will The Flu Vaccine Be This Season? In general, flu vaccines reduce the risk of flu illness by about 40% to 60% among the overall population. In Australia during the recent flu season, it is estimated only 10% vaccine effectiveness against one flu virus (the H3N2 virus). In the US last flu season, the overall effectiveness against the circulating flu viruses was 39%.

What Else Can I Do To Prevent Flu This Season? In addition to getting a seasonal flu vaccine, you can take everyday preventive actions like staying away from sick people, and washing your hands to reduce the spread of viruses. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with your hands. If you are sick with flu, stay home to prevent spreading flu to others. In addition, there are antiviral medications can be used to treat flu illness.

Tamiflu can be used to treat flu like illness during the flu season 2017-18

Tamiflu capsules for treating flu symptoms

Can The Flu Be Treated?  There are prescription medications  called antiviral drugs for treating the flu this winter. Anyone with COPD is considered to be “high risk.”

You should contact your health care provider as soon as symptoms start. Tamiflu is an antiviral pill that is used to treat acute, uncomplicated illness due to influenza A and B infection if you have symptoms of the flu for less than 48 hours. When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you feel sick by 1 or 2 days. Tamiflu can also prevent serious complications like pneumonia.

Flu this Winter 2016-17: Important Treatment Information

What Should I Do if I get the Flu this Winter?

Dear Dr. Mahler:

I am concerned about what to do if I get the flu this season. My doctor has told me my COPD is severe, but I am doing pretty good. I use Anoro in the morning, and have Combivent as my rescue inhaler. I try to walk or do some activity every day depending on the weather. However, I worry about the flu this winter, and how I might get very sick. What is your advice?

Cecilia from Salinas, CA

Dear Cecilia:

Signs and symptoms of the flu

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)

 

How Flu Spreads

People with the flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when someone with flu coughs, sneezes, or talks.  A person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching her or his mouth, eyes or possibly their nose.

Coughing can expel the virus and cause flu this winter

Man coughing flu virus into the air.

When is Flu Contagious?

The flu can be passed to someone else before you even know you are sick as well as when you are sick. Most adults are able to infect others starting 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially those with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.

When do flu symptoms start?

The average time is 2 days from when a person is exposed to flu virus to when symptoms begin. However, the range is 1 to 4 days.

How to prevent getting the flu?

You should stay away from sick people. Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol based hand rub. Avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes with your hands.

Certainly, it is important to get the flu vaccine. If you haven’t received it yet, make sure to the shot as soon as possible.

Can the flu be treated?

Tamiflu capsules for treating flu symptoms

 

There are prescription medications  called antiviral drugs for treating the flu this winter. Since you have COPD, you are considered in the high risk group. Contact your health care provider as soon as symptoms start. Tamiflu is an antiviral pill that is used to treat acute, uncomplicated illness due to influenza A and B infection if you have symptoms of the flu for less than 48 hours.

When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms and shorten the time you are sick by 1 or 2 days. They also can prevent serious complications like pneumonia.

Complications of the flu

Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a more serious complication that can result from either influenza virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart, brain, or muscle tissues.

I hope that this information is helpful. Be safe and stay healthy.

Donald A. Mahler, M.D.