It seems as if everyone knows someone who’s had the flu already this year. And it’s no surprise. According to Google Flu Trends, which is accurate when compared to Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention data, the Internet company says, most of the country is seeing “intense” flu activity right now.
But there may be a bit of good news when it comes to the flu.
“It looks like we’ve hit our peak already,” Mark Landrum, an infection control physician at Howard County General Hospital said. Although according to CDC data, most of the country is still seeing widespread flu activity, he said, “It looks like most places … are starting to see some decrease in cases.”
Flu season varies, Landrum said, between mid-November and March. Last year, he said “We peaked in the beginning of March – it was a late season.” Typically in this area, he said, flu peaks between late January and early February.
To protect against the flu, the best measure is, of course, a flu vaccine, but even with the vaccine a person can still get sick.
Even at Howard County General, where vaccines are mandatory, “My daughter and I got it,” said spokesperson Sharon Sopp. “Two of my daughters have not had the vaccine and they were fine. Me and my other daughter both got the vaccine. And we both got the flu.”
That’s because the effectiveness of the vaccine is dependent on two things, the health of the individual and the match between the strain of virus used to make the vaccine and the virus that’s been going around, according to the CDC.
“If the viruses in the vaccine and the influenza viruses circulating in the community are closely matched, vaccine effectiveness is higher,” according to the CDC. “If they are not closely matched, vaccine effectiveness can be reduced."
But a flu vaccine can still lessen the severity of a different strand of flu, according to the CDC.
So be sure to see a doctor if you have the following symptoms, Landrum said:
- High fever
- Muscle aches
- Dry cough (not always a symptom)
- Lots of fatigue
Landrum said it’s important to act quickly. Doctors can prescribe Tamiflu – an anti-influenza medication that’s been proven to shorten symptoms by a day.
For those who say they don’t want a flu vaccination for whatever reason, Landrum said the data speak for themselves: the influenza vaccine is 70 – 80 percent effective and are recommended for everyone older than six months without any specific medical conditions that contraindicate with the vaccine.
“Then you can make your own decision,” he said.
To get a vaccination, contact your primary care physician or, in Ellicott City, get one at:
Giant (Call first to ensure your preferred location is still offering vaccinations)