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Dr. Edwards' Blog

Worst Flu Season in History?  Some Health Experts Say "Yes!" -- 1/11/18

Health experts across the nation are bracing for what they believe could be the worst flu seasons in U.S. history.

Widespread outbreaks are happening in 46 states.  Reported cases in some states, like Arizona, are up more than 758 percent over this time last year, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the flu is continuing to spread very quickly.

The CDC says so far nearly 9,000 people have tested positive for influenza.  More than 1,200 of them are here in Franklin County.  But Tony Buel, the county's public health supervisor, says that number is deceiving.  "I know there are so many more cases of the flu because a lot of people just don't go to the doctor."  Buel says they typically see more than 300 cases reported each week.  Now, he says, it's closer to 400, and if that keeps up, Franklin County will set a record too.

To make matters worse, the flu vaccine is not proving to be very effective against this year's main strain, because of a virus mutation.  This season's main flu strain is known as the H3N2 virus, and it's more deadly than the swine flu.  Here are the main symptoms, which do not include nausea and vomiting:

  • fever
  • fatigue
  • body aches
  • a sore throat & cough
  • nasal congestion
  • chills

Each year, on average, 5 percent to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu, tens of thousands are hospitalized, and between 3,000 and 49,000 Americans die from flu-related illness, according to the CDC. The flu strikes indiscriminately, but young children, the elderly and the chronically ill are most vulnerable. 

Despite early reports that the flu vaccine has been ineffective, the experts say everyone still needs the shot.  They say it's the best defense to keep from getting the flu.  And it's not too late.  Check with your doctor or pharmacist about how to get your vaccine.  The Franklin County Health Department on Main Street in Union also will give the shots.  Most insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine.  In addition to getting a flu shot, remember:

  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • Wash your hands frequently
  • Clean areas you touch often
  • Stay home when you are sick
  • Boost your immune system

And keep this in mind:  Experts say up to 30% of people who say they feel fine and don't have any symptoms can still carry the flu virus and spread it.

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