Flu season is on the way – 60 confirmed cases this year

By Amber McIver-Traywick

The Surveyor

Flu season, which generally begins in October and November, may be particularly bad in the United States this year, according the Center For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Flu season in Australia, which is often used as an indicator for how things will go in the U.S. as historic data has shown a correlation, is currently coming to an end and was the worst the country has seen according to the Australian Department of Health.

“We look at Australia, where it is their winter season right now, and they are getting hit hard by the flu. They are having a heavier than typical flu season, so we are preparing for the worst,’’ said Devin Minior, MD, physician executive at Banner Urgent Care.

The United States experiences annual epidemics of seasonal flu. Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Flu activity across the country begins an upward swing in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, but can last all the way into May. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health & Environment (CDPHE) the 2018-2019 flu season in Colorado began on Sept. 30, 2018, and continued through May of this year. Last season Colorado saw the second highest number of flu-related hospitalizations reported in a season, second only to the previous year with a record 4,650 recorded hospitalizations.

The CDC and many healthcare providers recommend receiving the flu vaccine to help protect against the virus for most people age 6 months of age and older. Medical professionals stress that individuals age 65 years or older and young children under 5, and especially those 2 years and younger, have the highest rates of hospitalization from the flu.

CDPHE had already reported 60 confirmed cases of the flu in Colorado since June this year.

 “At this point we would advocate getting the flu shot as soon as possible,’’ Minior said. Flu shots are available at Banner Urgent Care clinics, and many insurance companies require no copay for the vaccine. Other locations to receive a flu shot can be found at colorado.gov/pacific/cdphe/get-vaccinated.

For some, there is also an alternative to flu shots: FluMist, a nasal spray that can be prescribed for people from 2 to 49 years of age, if they are healthy and not pregnant. FluMist is a brand-name vaccine that does not require an injection but, as the name implies, is a spray made from weakened live viruses that cause your immune system to make proteins in your blood and in your nose that help you fight the flu virus.

Aside from vaccination, CDPHE recommends sticking with some of the basics to help keep you and your family healthy during flu season. These include: frequent and thorough hand-washing, avoiding touching your face or eyes, making a point to cover your face and mouth when you sneeze or cough, with your arm and not your hands, and avoid contact with people who are sick. If you are prescribed medication, be sure to take it as instructed for maximum effectiveness, and stay home if you are sick, as flu can be spread just by exhaling.

According to CDPHE, the flu typically has a quick onset of symptoms, which can include congestion (less common with the flu), cough, runny or stuffy nose, itchy or watery eyes, sore throat, headache, extreme fatigue, body aches, and a low fever. The key difference between a cold and influenza is the severity and often how quickly the illness comes on. A cold tends to start slowly and gradually and will get worse over a few days. You tend to feel bad with cold symptoms, but they usually aren’t severe enough to disrupt your life. The flu tends to hit all at once with more extreme symptoms, rendering you unable to go about your daily routine.

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