The 2014-2015 flu season is officially here and based on early data, this year’s flu season could be severe and widespread with cases already reported in 36 states, according to the CDC. The H3N2 strain, which is the most common flu virus strain this year has been connected to severe flu seasons in the past. People over 65 years old or under 5 years old are more likely to develop severe illness with this strain of flu; however, any one with severe respiratory symptoms should seek medical attention.
This year’s particular strain began mutating after the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases laboratories created this year’s vaccine. Although the vaccine was created for another strain, the CDC still recommends receiving the flu vaccination for precaution.
According to White County Medical Center Infection Control Nurse Mary Lou Adams, RN, the flu strain H3N2 is almost all that is being seen this season. The flu is starting to increase in the number of cases at about the same time it did last year, which is earlier than the onset has been in years past.
“Because flu strains vary from year to year, healthcare professionals do not have a scientific way to gauge how mild or severe this flu season will be, or when it will really hit,” Adams said. “The best way to protect ourselves and our family members is to get a flu shot. Even though the flu vaccine is not as effective as it is has been in the past, it still offers some protection and may decrease the severity should you contract the flu.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), everyone ages 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine, especially children younger than 5 years old, people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, pregnant women and people ages 65 and older, as well as people in the same household as those individuals. The CDC continues to recommend the flu vaccine for women in any stage of pregnancy, as well as nursing mothers; expectant mothers should seek counsel from their OB/GYN before receiving any vaccine.
“Be vigilant about washing your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds; alcohol-based hand sanitizer serves as a good backup too,” Adams said. “Also, cough or sneeze into a tissue and immediately throw it into the trash, then, wash your hands. Good hand-washing is critical in preventing the spread of the flu.”
The flu is spread primarily when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the droplets move through the air and are inhaled by people within three to six feet. The virus can live on surfaces for several hours, which transfers easily to hands and can make you sick if you touch your eyes, mouth or nose.
- a fever of more than 100 degrees that does not react to regular ibuprofen
- shortness of breath
- extreme tiredness
- general achiness and joint pain
- nausea, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- headache, sore throat and a stuffy or runny nose
People at higher risk for contracting the flu:
- children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years of age
- healthcare workers
- emergency medical services workers
People who are at risk for having greater complications:
- pregnant women
- those who have chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease
- those who take medications that may suppress their immune system, such as those with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy treatment
- persons age 65 and over
For more information about the 2014-2015 flu season, please visit www.wcmc.org and click the flu.gov icon on the White County Medical Center homepage.
ABOUT WHITE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER
As the leading healthcare provider in a six-county area, White County Medical Center associates strive to improve the quality of health and well-being for the communities it serves through compassionate care. White County Medical Center is the largest employer in a six-county area with more than 1,750 associates. The facility has a combined total of 438 licensed beds and a medical staff of 150 physicians that specialize in various areas of healthcare.
In addition to the North and South Campuses, White County Medical Center includes Clarity Health and Wellness, Family Practice Associates, McAfee Medical Clinics, Orthopaedic and Spine Center of Central Arkansas, Searcy Medical Center and Searcy Medical Center – West Clinic, Westside Family Medical Clinic, WCMC Cardiology Clinic and White County Oncology.