January 29, 2013 > Letter to the Editor: Stop the flu
Letter to the Editor: Stop the flu
The annual flu season is here - however it is of greater magnitude than of previous years. Having reached epidemic proportions in the United States, the illness is now widespread in 47 states and 37 children have reportedly died from the flu season thus far.
This season's outbreak is more severe given that last year's flu was on the milder end of the spectrum. According to Bill Hanage, an epidemiologist from the Harvard School of Public Health, a flu season's gravity depends on the susceptibility of the population and the type of virus going around. This year, the H3N2 virus is the predominant bug. Because it has not circulated in recent years, there is an increased susceptibility and opportunity for sickness.
Although the Tri-City area has not yet reached national flu epidemic proportions, it is in our best interest to be aware of the flu so as to prevent severe consequences.
The flu is a respiratory illness with symptoms, such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness, and dry coughing, similar to the common cold. However, the flu can be differentiated in that the cold symptoms gradually onset and are usually milder and include runny or stuffy noses. The flu usually enters the body through the mouth, nose or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus become airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. Additionally, the flu can be spread by touching contaminated surfaces and then touching one's face.
School-age children, older adults, and people with compromised immune systems are more susceptible to the flu. The best prevention is the flu vaccine supplied every year. This year's strain protects against three different forms of the virus, lowering the risk of getting sick. It is important to get vaccinated each year to maintain optimal immunity as the vaccine is changed annually to best target the mix of flu viruses expected. This year, people who received the vaccine are about 60% less likely to end up at the doctor's office with the flu.
In addition to the vaccine, it is important to wash one's hands often with soap and water to limit the spread of the flu. Disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs, keeping one's face hands-free, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding close contact with sick people are other ways to prevent the virus.
Above all, it is highly advised to get vaccinated this season so as to protect yourself and others around you from the flu.