HEALTH

Experts predict longer, tougher flu season this year

BY Leah Mishkin, Correspondent |

It’s the very beginning of flu season and so far the Cranford office of Vangaurd Medical Group has only seen one or two confirmed cases of the flu over the last week. But Vanguard Medical Group President Dr. Robert Eidus says they’re expecting it to peak around Christmas, and they’re expecting it to hit hard.

“It starts later and extends longer. It used to be over by November, December and now it extends into May,” he said.

A good way to understand how our flu season will look here in the United States is by looking at how the winter season was in the southern hemisphere, for example, take Australia.

“Australia has had a severe flu season from all of the indicators they measure there, and the influenza virus that predominated in Australia is the H3N2 virus. In the United States, it typically results in more hospitalizations of the elderly, more severe disease in young children,” said Brendan Flannery, an epidemiologist with the influenza division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The H3N2 has already been found in the United States. CDC officials say the vaccine may not be as effective fighting that strain but say it’s still critical to get a flu shot.

“Even when vaccine effectiveness is low against one influenza virus, there are three or four influenza viruses that are in the vaccine,” said Flannery.

Eidus says the flu shot lasts for the entire year, so it’s best to get when it first comes out, usually in August. For those of us who still need to get the shot, it’s not too late because you develop immunity in about a week.

“It not only protects you, but it protects someone who you might be in contact with who is more frail and may not be able to tolerate getting the flu. Pneumonia is one of the most serious sequelae, or consequences, of the flu and people die from the flu,” said Eidus.

If you’re highly contagious for portions of the flu, here are signs to flag you might have the virus: high fever, body aches, severe cough and headaches.

One of Eidus’ patients says he experienced high fevers and felt run down over a few days.

“I got the flu the first time when I was 35, so I never had it before and I actually never heard of anyone getting the flu, or as many people getting the flu as they have in the last couple of years,” he said.

We’ll end this story with a common misconception. Did you know that you can’t get the flu from the flu shot?

“The flu shot is a ‘kill vaccine’ and it doesn’t have any live components. It’s not infectious. The most common side effects from the flu shot is some soreness in your arm at the sight of the injection,” said Eidus.

TOPIC: HEALTH