Only 0.9 percent of emergency room visits between October 1-7 this year were due to influenza. But according to health officials, that is not indicative of the flu season they expect here in Oregon.
While last year’s flu season saw an uptick in cases, this year’s bug is expected to be just as bad or worse. Stories spread of packed hospital beds up and down Interstate-5 and patients being shipping to Washington during last season’s flu outbreak.
There are several strains of the flu, which is why individuals who receive the flu shot can still get sick. However, officials often look to the southern hemisphere, which experiences its flu season prior to the season in the U.S., for signs of which strain may hit the nation and how bad the season might be.
This year, officials have named H3/N2 as the likely culprit for this year’s flu strain and warn that this particular strain affects seniors particularly hard.
“Every flu season is a bad flu season, but we can all do our part in keeping flu numbers down by getting a flu shot before the season really hits hard,” said Ann Thomas, MD, public health physician in the Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section at the OHA Public Health Division.
Flu is a virus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness and can lead to hospitalization. The virus kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year. People at higher risk of severe illness or death include children, adults older than 65, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions or weak immune systems.
Your best bet at avoiding the flu and what to do if you get it:
Food can be used to fend of the flu. Common foods that many people already have in their pantries can be powerful flu-fighters. Garlic, for example, contains compounds that have direct antiviral effects and may help destroy the flu before it affects the body. Raw garlic is best. In addition to garlic, citrus fruits, ginger, yogurt, and dark leafy greens can boost immunity and fight the flu, according to Mother Nature’s Network. The British Journal of Nutrition notes that dark chocolate supports T-helper cells, which increase the immune system’s ability to defend against infection.
A study published in the American Journal of Therapeutics showed that carnosine, a compound found in chicken soup, can help strengthen the body’s immune system and help fight off the flu in its early stages.
Flu shot and medications
Annual flu shots administered in advance of flu season can help protect people and their families from getting the flu. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that, in select situations, antiviral medications — which are usually prescribed to treat the flu and lessen symptoms — can reduce the chance of illness in people exposed to influenza.
Many over-the-counter medicines can alleviate symptoms of the flu, but cannot fend it off.
Stop germ proliferation
Germs can be spread easily between persons through direct contact and indirect contact with surfaces sick individuals have touched. Doctors recommend staying home for at least 24 hours after a flu-induced fever has dissipated. Well individuals should avoid contact with sick people.
Frequent hand-washing with soap and water can stop germs from spreading. When soap and water is not available, alcohol-based hand sanitizers can help. People also should avoid touching their eyes, noses and mouths after being in public places or around someone who is ill.
Rest and restore
Those who feel symptoms coming on should begin drinking more liquids to keep the respiratory system hydrated and make mucus less viscous. Remember to get adequate sleep, as a tired body cannot effectively fight the flu virus.