How Bad Is this Year’s Flu Season, Really?

Every winter it seems like there is big news about how the current flu season is worse than the last. While it can be tempting to ignore the warnings after a while, beware – this year is actually quite bad. Flu Season 2017-2018 has presented incredibly widespread influenza activity, a high rate of hospitalization, death, and a state of emergency in some regions of the United States. How did it get so bad? We’ll take a look and provide a few helpful tips for reducing your chances of getting the flu if you have been lucky enough to dodge it thus far.

Epidemic Flu Activity

The flu has reached widespread activity in every state except Hawaii – something that’s uncommon even in the past few years, which have seen increased flu activity in the wintertime. One of the most significant reasons for this is the strain of flu that’s circulating. H3N2 is a notoriously harsh flu strain that is difficult to prevent and presents a higher rate of complications—especially in at-risk populations like children and the elderly.

Some areas have seen such high flu activity that public schools are closing because so many kids and staff are out sick.

More Complications and Fatalities

Hospitals are seeing more patients come in with flu symptoms, and some emergency rooms have been described as madhouses filled with sick patients awaiting care. Adults over the age of 65 are the most frequent hospital visitors this flu season, but individuals of all ages are at risk of complications, and some children are seeing fatal flu consequences.

Supply Shortages

Some years, it is a shortage of the flu vaccine that’s to blame for an uptick in flu-related complications and deaths, but this year there is a different shortage placing stress on hospitals. IV bags are in short supply, because nearly half the IV bags used in American hospitals are manufactured in hurricane-damaged Puerto Rico. Without these readily available, it is harder to treat dehydration and supply intravenous medication that can help battle the flu in a hospital setting.

Steps You Can Take

  • Work from home, if you’re able. Avoiding contact with sick individuals can help you keep from getting sick. Because of the prevalence of the flu this year, it’s likely that there are flu-stricken individuals in your office.
  • If you are sick, stay home unless you need medical care. Even when you do need a doctor, you can find care with online medical consultations, which are not only convenient but will reduce exposure time.
  • Avoid sleeping in the same bed as your partner if he or she is sick. Take up the guest room or sleep on the couch until he or she feels better. This can limit your contact with flu germs while helping you and your partner to both get the restful sleep needed to fight off the flu.
  • Eat the right foods. The same foods that help you feel better with the flu can help ward off symptoms. Think chicken noodle soup, ginger tea, and spicy veggie stir-fry. You might already be making these foods if someone you know is sick, so make extra to enjoy for yourself.
  • Get a flu shot, if you have not already. The flu shot may not be infallible, and many people are discouraged by stories of people who have gotten the shot and still gotten the flu. However, the shot can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, and it can still be an effective line of prevention this late in the season.

Throughout every flu season, MeMD is your resource for medical care that doesn’t require you to leave your house. Our medical team can see you through an online consultation and prescribe anti-viral medication that help reduce flu symptoms.