We seem to be at the midpoint of the current flu season. In fact, there is some evidence that we have hit the peak. CNN reports:
On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported 47 states are experiencing widespread activity, although it appears to be decreasing in some areas.
According to the CDC, this is the most flu cases they’ve seen at this time of year in more than a decade. Twenty pediatric flu-related deaths have occurred since the start of the season. The CDC does not track adult flu-related deaths.
The peak of the season, which usually happens in February, may be yet to come for most states — officials said Friday it may be a week or two before it becomes clear whether cases have peaked.
The same CNN article goes on to answer ten common questions about influenza, including:
Is it too late to get the vaccine?
In one word: no. Keep in mind that it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop in your body and provide protection against the virus, the CDC says.
Other things you can do to prevent catching the flu:
It’s disturbing to think about, but flu germs can spread up to 6 feet through coughs and sneezes. They can also live on surfaces for up to eight hours.
Dr. Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician and mother of two, recommends practicing good “social distancing.” This means canceling parties or dates if someone is sick and avoiding large crowds (like at the movies or going out to dinner) if your community has been hit hard by the virus.
It’s also a good idea to practice proper hand-washing — for at least 20 seconds several times a day. And wiping handles, counters and remotes daily with hot soapy water or disinfectant will kill any germs that linger.
Like this, sort of:
Here’s a WebMD video (after the ad) of how to do it right.
And just how effective is the flu vaccine? Alice Park at Time.com says:
Based on early data from flu sufferers, health officials say the current influenza vaccine is 62% effective in reducing symptoms of the disease.
That means that those who are vaccinated are 62% less likely to need to see a doctor for their illness compared to those who are not vaccinated.
This number appears low for one major reason: it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to be fully effective. If you haven’t received it yet, getting your flu vaccine now is a good idea. However, your chances are higher today of being exposed and getting the flu in the next two weeks than they were last month, or the month before that. At the risk of stating the obvious, the vaccine is more effective when given earlier in the season (when there is no flu around) than later (like now, when flu is peaking).
Three logical suggestions:
- Get your flu shot now (call us, like, TODAY) and hope you don’t get exposed to the flu in the next two weeks (though you’re likely to get at least some protection fairly immediately if you do get the flu).
- Get into the habit of getting your annual flu vaccine early in the season. My office starts immunizing children (and their parents) every August — that’s not too early!
- Don’t take your chances with influenza, no matter how healthy you think you might be. The one thing that is predictable about influenza is that its timing and severity are unpredictable. Generally, though, it’s a really, really nasty illness.
Read CDC report on effectiveness of flu vaccine here.
More flu coverage on The PediaBlog here.