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Doctors predict flu season to peak around the holidays

Hollywood, MD- With the temperatures bouncing up and down and the cooler air moving in for the season, you can bet the flu season isn’t far behind—and for some areas—it has already arrived.

So far, Louisiana and Oklahoma already have widespread flu activity. If the trend continues, flu season is on track to peak over the holiday season. In fact, doctors are warning this could be a bad flu season here in the United States based on data from Australia where the country was hit hard with the influenza virus this year.

The type of flu that’s responsible for most illnesses is the H3N2 strain. H3 strains are often more severe and puts the older generation at higher risk. Last year, H3N2 viruses dominated in North America and it’s the same component that was used in last year’s flu shots—but proved to lower the risk of infection by just 34-percent.

The vaccine seems to be even less effective in Australia. The flu vaccine used there contains the same combination of ingredients as the vaccine in America. Unfortunately, the flu shot only proved to be about 10 percent effective for folks down under this year. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, another flu strain that circulated widely around Australia was not included in this year’s flu vaccine.

Each year, the flu shot contains several different influenza strains. However, there’s no way for researchers to accurately predict which strains will spread during any given year.

Public health officials are encouraging doctors in North America to be proactive with their more vulnerable patients this year because many will still get the flu despite getting the vaccine.

Officials are telling doctors to prescribe antiviral drugs in advance to patients who have chronic illnesses so they can get them quickly if they become sick. Antiviral drugs should be taken within a 48-hour window of the onset of flu symptoms.

The lack of effectiveness in the flu shot has some doctors calling for a deeper look at what goes into developing the vaccine. The Director of the National Institute of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said more needs to be done to develop a vaccine that protects against all strains of influenza.

Despite the lack of effectiveness, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) encourages Americans to get the flu shot saying it’s your best chance and "most important step in protecting against flu viruses."

If you choose not to vaccinate against the flu, there are things you can do to protect yourself this season. Always try to avoid close contact with people who are ill. If you’re not feeling well, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, as to not spread your germs.

The CDC encourages everyone to wash their hands with soap and water often and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

If someone in your home or office has been sick, make sure to disinfect surfaces that may have been contaminated with flu germs.

Stay well!

Contact Joy Shrum at j.shrum@thebaynet.com

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