Fight the Flu

Guest post written by Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP, Catholic Medical Center

It’s that time of year again when we see an increase in influenza activity across the country. As of January 20th, the entire country was seeing widespread influenza activity, including New Hampshire. With so much influenza activity, there has been a lot of media attention on the topic. Are you tired of listening to the media reports? Tired of listening to the public health announcements about vaccination and hand hygiene? I know I start to get a bogged down by all the media after a few weeks of influenza season but I urge you to remain vigilant with your influenza prevention habits, and for good reason!

Influenza A (H3N2) is dominating the influenza landscape this year. Historically, this strain brings an increase in hospitalizations, deaths and influenza activity in the community. As you can see in the figure below from the CDC, this year’s influenza season has a similar level of activity to the 2014-2015 influenza season, which caused an increase in hospitalizations and deaths. Nationwide, there have been 37 pediatric deaths since the start of the influenza season. Thankfully, we have not seen any in New Hampshire at the time of this writing. The age group seeing the highest rate of hospitalizations from influenza is adults over the age of 65. 

Flu
What can you do to fight the flu? The top three ways are: get vaccinated, wash your hands (all the time!), and discuss taking antivirals if you get influenza. It can take 2 weeks for your body to develop antibodies after you get the vaccine so don’t delay and get it today. It’s not too late! Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless you wash your hands first and clean and disinfect commonly touched items such as your desk and phone. If you start to come down with symptoms of influenza, such as a fever, cough, body aches and sore throat, talk to your doctor about taking antiviral medications, especially if you are over 65 years old or have a high risk health condition (e.g. asthma, diabetes). Antivirals have been shown to reduce serious complications from influenza.2

Stay up to date on what is happening with influenza and don’t just rely on the media reports. Check out the data by going to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services website https://www.dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/influenza/activity.htm for a statewide perspective or go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm) for a regional or national perspective. The CDC also has an interactive dashboard you can manipulate to look at the data you are interested in. Check it out by going to https://gis.cdc.gov/grasp/fluview/fluportaldashboard.html. Stay healthy this influenza season!

1CDC. (2018). Weekly US Influenza Surveillance Report. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm#ILIMap.
2CDC. (2018). Preventive Steps. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm
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