By: Courtney Stringfellow & Erica Bunch
This year’s flu season is a force to be reckoned with and proactive steps are a necessity to
defend against the epidemic. According to the Center of Disease Control, the current flu season is the most dangerous on record with the highest rate of hospitalizations since the swine flu pandemic in 2009.
The reason? A viral mutation during recent vaccine development resulted in a less effective form of treatment of the H3N2 virus– this year’s dominant strain.
The unusually cold winter only makes matters worse.
“For North Florida, it’s been a cooler winter so far,” said nurse practitioner Lillia Loriz. “The cross-contamination is usually due to people being in confined spaces. With it being colder, we’re spending more time indoors than we would normally.”
Once infected, a smart course of treatment includes avoiding contact, resting and drinking lots of fluids. Some end up missing work, and losing out on a large chunk of weekly income if they don’t have sick days. Prevention is key to getting through this season with ease.
The most common form of prevention is the flu vaccine, which nurse practitioner Doreen Perez strongly urges everyone to get if they are able to.
“Most of the people who have gotten the flu shot are being well-protected,” Perez says.
However, everyone isn’t that keen on vaccinations. Some are skeptical of the flu shot’s effectiveness, and claim to have contracted the flu even after getting a vaccine. Others fear that the flu vaccine can cause mild or even serious illnesses.
Loriz says that even though the vaccine may not prevent the flu 100 percent of the time, its success rate is high enough to warrant getting it.
“There are adverse reactions to the flu vaccines, but they are not common,” Loriz says. “If you have an allergy to certain ingredients in the vaccine, that’s where you could have a reaction. However, the numbers are so small.”
Luckily for people with allergies, the vaccine isn’t the only form of prevention. Healthcare professionals like Perez encourage exercise, plenty of sleep, and a balanced diet complete with vitamins and minerals to keep the immune system in good shape.