05 Dec Facts About the Flu in 2017-2018
Every year, millions of Americans contract the flu. Learn about the flu and what you can do to protect yourself below!
About the Flu
- The flu and the common cold are not the same thing.
- Since 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates between 9.2 million and 35.6 million people contract the flu annually. The exact number is hard to know because it is not always reported to health care professionals, who report it to the CDC.
- The CDC reports between 140,000-710,000 hospitalizations due to the flu annually, depending upon the year – and approximately 12,000-56,000 deaths.
- Flu is most dangerous to seniors, infants or anyone with compromised immune systems.
- Peak flu season is between late December (around Christmas) and February; however, it can extend as late as May in heavy flu years.
About the Vaccine
- Certain strains of the flu can be prevented by getting an annual flu shot, provided the vaccine carries that strain.
- Flu strains vary every year, so a new flu shot is required annually as the strains included in the vaccine change and their effectiveness declines over time.
- This year, the CDC is seeing several strains of Influenza A and B in the United States, and this year’s flu shot includes vaccine against these.
- Flu vaccines become available in the early fall each year and take two weeks to build up antibodies in your system to fight off the strains included.
- You cannot contract the flu from a flu vaccine.
- This year, the CDC only recommends injectable immunizations – not the intranasal variety offered in years past.
- The CDC expects between 151,000-161,000 doses of vaccine will be provided this year (all from private manufacturers).
- So far, less than 50 percent of the population in California, Florida and North Carolina has had a flu shot.
- Flu shots are usually provided as a “wellness” benefit by most health care providers for free or a low cost.
Treatment and Prevention
- If you get the flu, you might be eligible for an anti-viral prescription medication known as Tamiflu to help shorten the duration of the illness; you have to act quickly, though, because it’s most effective if started within the first 24-48 hours of symptoms. Otherwise, since the flu is a virus (rather than a bacteria), it cannot be treated with antibiotics.
- If you get sick, stay home to prevent passing on the illness to others. Try not to cough on others or into your hands. Cough into a bent elbow. Wash your hands regularly so you do not pass the virus onto others through door handles, TV or game remotes, or other items handled by others.
- Sometimes, you can develop a secondary bacterial infection while infected by the cold or flu. Prolonged fever; heavy, colored discharge from the nose or a cough that generates colored phlegm are some of the signs that you should see your doctor to confirm whether you have a bacterial infection that can be treated by antibiotics.
- To help prevent colds or any illness during the winter, avoid contact with those who are sick or show visible symptoms, such as frequent coughing or blowing their noses. If you have physical contact with them, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and wash your hands regularly with soap and water. To keep your immune system healthy, be sure to get enough sleep and good nutrition.
Reviewed by John Kim, MD, on Nov. 29, 2017
John Kim, MD
Senior Medical Officer, Alignment Healthcare
Chief Medical Officer, Alignment Health Plan
As a senior medical officer for Alignment Healthcare based in California, Dr. Kim is engaged with the senior executive team in defining the overall business strategy and direction of the organization. As CMO of Alignment Health Plan, he leads the plan’s overall clinical vision and provides clinical direction to the health management, network, product and credentialing divisions to ensure quality of care and the development and implementation of innovative clinical programs. He can provide experienced insight to coordinating care across health care organizations and how coordinated care can benefit the aging population, especially from the provider perspective – having practiced as a physician for more than 10 years. Prior to joining Alignment, Dr. Kim served as an extensivist and regional medical director for CareMore Health Plan. Dr. Kim is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine.