Flu Season May Hit Hard This Year
Published: Friday, November 1, 2019
Local and national experts say this year’s influenza season is arriving earlier than usual – and hitting hard. The time to be prepared is now.
Annual flu predictions are based largely on activity in the southern hemisphere in the months before flu season begins in the United States.
“Apparently, Australia had a very bad flu year," said Kathryn Reilly, M.D., OU Physicians Family Medicine. “Flu season typically starts around December and extends into February, but we have seen cases as early as September this year. There just shouldn't be flu activity at that time; it’s an indicator that the season may be worse than usual.”
Experts say it is a mistake to underestimate the potentially serious complications of the flu. Influenza is a serious illness, not to be confused with other conditions that include flu-like symptoms. Pneumonia can be caused by influenza or may occur later, as bacteria infiltrate a weakened immune system. Other serious complications may include inflammation of various muscles, including the heart. Brain inflammation is possible and organ failure may occur.
Reilly warned that those who are at greater risk of more serious complications should seek medical attention. High-risk individuals include those with chronic diseases, compromised or deficient immune systems, pregnant women and those who are over the age of 65 and not in good health.
“If you believe a baby under six months of age may have been exposed to the flu, the child should see a doctor," she said.
Vaccination is one of the most effective steps to prevent the flu or minimize the severity of flu symptoms. Consistent hand washing and frequent cleaning in high-traffic areas of the home are practical and effective in preventing the spread of infection. To support the body’s ability to fight off infection, stay hydrated and support your immune system with vitamins. Avoid people who have symptoms or are already ill. Cover coughs and sneezes and avoid touching your mouth, nose and eyes as much as possible. Avoid touching surfaces others have touched.
School-age children are in constant contact with surfaces and objects; frequent cleaning is essential. Encourage you children to avoid sharing supplies and keep hand soap and disinfectant wipes available.
If you become ill, Reilly offers this advice: “If you have the flu, the best thing to do is stay home, rest and drink plenty of fluids. Do not spread the flu by going to school or work.” If appropriate with other medications, Reilly said decongestants, acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help relieve the discomfort of flu symptoms.