Predicting the pattern for an upcoming flu season can be challenging. While this fall showed promise for a mild season, the number of patients in our emergency departments with flu or flu-like illness is now increasing rapidly, suggesting that perhaps the worst is yet to come.
Beginning the first of December and climbing within the last two weeks, WakeMed physicians have seen a surge of patients with symptoms including fever, cough, aches, and fatigue. The rates are highest among toddlers and preschool-aged children in particular, constituting almost 27 percent of WakeMed visits last week.
The best defense against the flu is to get a flu shot. The Center for Disease Control says that the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70 to 90 percent in adults, but even if you do not get the virus, the vaccine can still prevent serious complications from the flu. Remember too that it takes approximately two weeks from the time you are vaccinated till you reach maximum protection against the flu.
Why the surge in flu and flu-like illness all of a sudden? While it’s hard to say exactly, the extensive cold weather may have played a part, keeping people indoors and together.
The best way to lower your risk of illness:
- Get a flu shot.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for 15 to 20 seconds.
- Use hand gel when hand washing is not available.
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow.
- Keep your environment clean. Household products work great for this.
- If you are sick, stay home to prevent the spread of illness.
Robin Carver, RN, director of Infection Prevention & Control