According to the CDC’s most recent FluView report, “The 2014-2015 flu season shows that flu season in the United States has begun and about half the country is experiencing high levels of flu activity. Reports of flu illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths are elevated.” According to USA Today, “The flu is now so widespread across the USA that it’s officially considered an epidemic by the [CDC], but it’s too soon to tell how particular bad it will be.”
News articles and content seem to corroborate this report; many across the country have reported on the deaths of previously healthy teenagers and adults, though older individuals have died at higher rates than others due to their vulnerability to this year’s most prevalent strain, H3N2.
In order to protect oneself, the CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine shot for those 6 months and older. The CDC carefully outlines the benefits of flu vaccination including a reduction in flu-related hospitalizations, deaths and absenteeism from work and school.
However, Michael Jhung, a medical officer with the CDC’s influenza division, told USA Today that H3N2 is “not a good match for the strains covered by the current vaccine, although the vaccine should still provide some protection,” which can reduce the occurrence of more severe outcomes.
Other mechanisms to protect oneself from the flu include employing “preventative actions” to prevent the spread of germs (e.g. wash your hands, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, remain home when sick, etc.) and taking antiviral medications if one happens to become infected.
According to Jhung, “Such antivirals can significantly reduce the flu’s severity when taken soon after symptoms begin, ideally within the first 24 hours.” This is especially important for older individuals, children under 5 and those with weak immune systems, who are collectively most susceptible to infection. USA Today reports that major drug chains have reported “spotty outages of anivirials,” but manufacturers have promised the CDC that more will be produced in order to protect people during this year’s flu season.
Though flu-season seems to be in “full-swing,” it is not expected to peak until early to mid-February. Thus, it is imperative that individuals get vaccinated now, especially given the two weeks necessary for the vaccine to produce antibodies and render the body ‘ready for battle.’