Flu Is on the Rise and Hitting Young and Middle-Aged Hard
It's not too late to get vaccinated, says the CDC
You’d think flu season would be winding down by now, but flu is on the rise according to a new health advisory from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
The CDC urges doctors to vaccinate patients "for as long as influenza viruses are circulating, and promptly start antiviral treatment of severely ill and high-risk patients if influenza is suspected or confirmed.”
A particular strain of the virus called H1N1pdm09 is behind the uptick in illness. Young and middle-aged adults are being hit especially hard. Some of them have wound up in the intensive care unit, and a few have died, according to the CDC. And yes — most of these flu patients had not been vaccinated.
Related: Sidelined by the Flu?
Don't forget about antivirals
Remember that antiviral medications are available that can lessen the symptoms and shorten the flu, especially if you start them within 48 hours of of falling ill, the CDC advises. It's likely the doctor will test you for the virus but she may put you on medication without waiting for the results, since the flu virus test has a high false-negative rate (in other words, it may say you don't have the flu when you do).
Antiviral treatment can also help prevent flu-related complications like pneumonia.
For people who are in the hospital and come down with the flu, the CDC notes that "Early antiviral treatment works best, but treatment may offer benefit when started up to 4 to 5 days after symptom onset."
Are you due for a flu shot?
Health experts recommend flu vaccination for people 6 months and older. It’s especially important for people at high risk of complications from the flu to be vaccinated, says the CDC. This group includes:
- Children 2 and under
- Adults 65 and older and people who live in nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities
- Anyone with a chronic condition such as asthma, kidney disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, neurologic disorders and severe obesity, among others (your doctor can tell you if you fall into the high-risk category)
- People whose immune systems are compromised — for example, those infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or who take certain medications
- Women who are pregnant or have had a baby within the previous two weeks
- People under 19 on long-term aspirin therapy
- American Indians and natives of Alaska
Related: Flu Myths and Facts
Is it the flu?
Flu tends to come on quickly (unlike a cold) and can cause a variety of symptoms, including:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone who comes down with the flu will have a fever though)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children than adults)
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