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Sharp Health News

What’s new with the flu?

Jan. 21, 2020

What’s new with the flu?
Flu activity remains high in San Diego and across the country. Close to 5,500 cases of the flu have been reported in San Diego County and 32 flu-related pediatric deaths have occurred in the U.S. this season. Half the number of pediatric flu deaths were reported at the same point during the 2018-2019 season.

Two strains — the influenza A strain H1N1 and a second strain known as B/Victoria — have been the most reported causes of illness. The County of San Diego says that influenza A cases are now being reported more frequently than influenza B, but the latter is disproportionately affecting young people. However, the flu can be serious for anyone.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the currently available flu vaccine is a very good match for the H1N1 strain, it is not a great match for the B/Victoria strain, offering a 58% chance that it will protect against that flu strain. However, the flu shot can help prevent the flu, decrease symptoms, shorten the time of illness and protect people from developing life-threatening conditions related to the flu.

Signs and symptoms of the flu include:
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny and stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
Seek medical care immediately if you or a loved one experience any of the following serious symptoms:
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Not alert or responsive when awake
  • Dehydration
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Fever above 104° F
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Seizures
  • Chest pain
  • Fever or cough that improves and then returns or worsens
“The CDC recommends that people get a flu vaccine by the end of October, just before the new flu season typically begins,” says Leslie Thompson, manager of employee and occupational health at Sharp HealthCare. “However, it is not too late to receive the vaccination, as the flu season can continue through April. We recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated prior to each fall. Vaccination is extremely important for people at risk for serious flu-related complications.”

To protect you and your family, flu shots are available through your health care provider or at flu clinics throughout the community. Most health plans, including Medicare, will cover the cost of a flu shot with no copay; patients should refer to their health plan for details. Sharp Community Medical Group, Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and other local clinics have the flu vaccine.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now advises parents to vaccinate their children with either the flu shot or the improved nasal spray vaccine. Last year, the AAP cited a preference for the flu shot over the spray for small children.

Thompson, who oversees Sharp’s flu program to vaccinate its 18,000-plus workforce, says that while flu vaccine is an important part of preventing the flu, there are some other common-sense approaches to avoid getting sick from both colds and flu:
  • Clean your hands regularly with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
  • If possible, stay away from others who are sick, and stay home if you are sick.
If you are diagnosed with the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications to make your symptoms milder, shorten the time you are sick and help prevent serious complications. Antiviral drugs work best when taken within two days of becoming sick, but those with a mild case of the flu may not need to take medications other than over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen.

Talk to your doctor if you or a loved one have flu symptoms. Learn more about the flu and get answers to your questions about the vaccination, symptoms and treatment by visiting the CDC influenza website.

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