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January 31, 2018

It’s Still Flu Season – Beware! Take Care!

It’s Still Flu Season – Beware! Take Care!

By: Pam Lamberger

I obediently roll up my sleeve every fall and avert my eyes while the nurse or pharmacist jabs my arm with the seasonal flu vaccine. Word is that this year’s brew is proving to be only minimally effective in preventing influenza, below the expected 20-90% rate. Despite this fact, experts strongly encourage everyone 6 months and over to be inoculated, even this far into the October – May flu season. And there’s more bad news – this year’s strain is the Influenza A (H3N2) variety, which is known to cause especially severe symptoms and has a higher rate of mortality. Doctors say that those who come down with the flu after having been vaccinated can expect milder symptoms for a shorter time and have less chance of complications, such as viral pneumonia. Symptoms can last 7-14 days on average. Keep in mind that it takes a couple of weeks for immunity to take effect.

Initially, it can be difficult to know if one’s symptoms are from the flu or a cold. First, consider if the flu-bug is active in your community. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease control and Prevention (CDC), 46 states, including Indiana, report widespread incidence of the flu. You can view local flu impact by visiting the Indiana Department of Health’s Weekly Influenza Reports; this site is updated weekly. During outbreaks, the sudden onset of fever, cough & congestion, combined with an all-over achy feeling and the chills are strong indicators of flu. Unfortunately, a person is infectious the day before symptoms begin, then they’ll continue to be contagious for about 7 days thereafter.

Surprisingly, influenza can be more than unpleasant and inconvenient – it can be deadly! As of Jan. 6, 50 Indiana deaths have been attributed to the flu. The subtype of the bug most prevalent this season causes severe symptoms. Young children and those over 65 are most at risk. The best way to protect yourself is to avoid those who are sick, wash your hands frequently – with soap – and keep your hands off your mouth, nose, and eyes.

Whenever health-related questions come up, loads of reliable information is available via the HEPL Website through our online databases:

• Gale Health and Wellness Resource Center
• Health Reference Center – Academic
• Inspire – A collection of databases, funded by the state, offers several health-related options.
• Opposing View Points: Search  “Flu” or “Flu Pandemics”

We also have books on many health topics; just search the HEPL Catalog for Subject “Influenza” to read more about our current topic of interest.

If this discussion has convinced you to get inoculated, it’s easy to find local sources for the flu shot. Vaccines are covered under most health insurance plans –  click here for more information. If you live in Hamilton County, and have Medicaid, are uninsured, or have no insurance coverage for vaccines, contact the Hamilton County Health Department at 317-776-8500 for current Influenza vaccine information. If you do come down with the flu, cover your cough and stay home from work or school to avoid infecting others. The season officially ends in May so beware and take care until then.