How you can protect yourself as peak flu season approaches

BY Raven Santana, Correspondent |

“Did you receive a flu shot?” is one of the first questions Dr. Michael Passafaro asks his patients. He says while he’s only recently started to notice a slight increase in the number of people coming in with flu-like symptoms, that could change soon.

“I believe it’s starting to ramp up now. I haven’t had a lot of cases of flu yet. I’ve had several cases, but I can’t say I had as many as I did last year. And the vaccine really didn’t really have the greatest efficacy in terms of coverage of the flu,” said Passafaro, who works at Christ Hospital in Jersey City.

As of Dec. 22, over 1,200 people in New Jersey have tested positive on the rapid influenza test.

“This year, it seems like the weather has been a little bit warmer recently but now it’s starting to get cooler, so we are starting to see an increase in the number of cases. I also believe that more people are getting the flu shot, flu vaccine, this year compared to last year,” Passafaro said.

He says it’s important certain groups of people that are most vulnerable — like the young and the elderly — make sure they get a flu shot.

“People under the age of 1 and people over the age of 70 [are at risk]. The current recommendation is any children over the age of six months, if they don t have any underlying medical issues. This is part of the group that is more vulnerable to the flu than the adults,” Passafaro said.

Passafaro says people often wait too long to get treated, and end up unknowingly passing it on to others.

“The medication that we give for the flu is really only efficacious, or it works the best, if your symptoms started within 48 hours, or two days. After that period of time, usually the best thing to do is to take lots of fluids, and you may want to take some pain medication. But taking the anti-viral medication after two days of having the symptoms has not been shown to be helpful,” he said.

Passafaro says aside from washing your hands with good old soap and water, a vaccine is a must if you don’t want to get the flu. He says it’s not too late to get the vaccine.

“The flu season goes from mid-October all the way to the end of March. So even at this time, I encourage all people who have not gotten the vaccine and they’re able to, to contact their primary care doctor and receive the vaccine,” Passafaro said.