January 10, 2017 - ERIE, Pa - This year's flu season has been a particularly tough one, with more cases and a less effective vaccine.
The Center's for Disease Control determines the day that flu season begins, which typically falls sometime the first week of October. The peak of flu season is generally January and February, so to see a spike in cases around this time is typical. This year, it's the severity of symptoms that's unusual.
As of January 6th, 231 cases of the flu, including two deaths, have been reported in Erie County this flu season.
"111 of those were reported within the last week," says Charlotte Berringer, the Director of Nursing at the Erie County Department of Health.
Nancy Weissbach, M.D. the Chairman of the Infectious Disease Department at St. Vincent Hospital explains, "we often see influenza come in like a bang."
Doctor's warn the public to look out for classic flu symptoms.
Weissbach says, "In addition to a cough and a fever, which you can have from many other viral illnesses, you have severe muscle aches. You feel like you've been run over by a truck."
It's the H3N2 strain of influenza that's primarily circulating this year.
Even if you got your flu shot this season, it may be as low as only 10% effective. Essentially, everyone is at risk of catching the flu, but it may be more dangerous for some.
Berringer explains, "if you're pregnant, very young, especially kids under two, the elderly, or you have underlying medical conditions, you definitely want to call your doctor."
If you fit into one of these groups, the risk of having severe influenza and other complications is higher. You'll want to get an anti-viral treatment, like Tamiflu, right away.
However, before it gets to that point, you can protect yourself.
"Go back to the mantra," Berringer says, "wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands."
Use a disinfectant to kill the influenza virus on commonly touched surfaces in your home and workplace.
"Keeping our hands away from our face," is another tip from Berringer.
The biggest tip, go and get your flu shot. Though it's not 100% effective, Weissbach says, "any protection with the flu it's worth getting."
If you're starting to feel sick, just stay home.
Also, if you don't have health insurance or can't afford the flu shot, you can contact the Erie County Department of Health, they do them for free.
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