Until last Friday, October 26, there were 15 cases of hospital flu in Minnesota this fall, with two cases.
"The idea that a person can end up in the hospital shows how ill you can get from influenza," said Doreen Hanson, the disease prevention and control specialist at Horizon Public Health, which serves Douglas and the surrounding counties. Hanson added that every year people die from the flu.
The flu season typically occurs in autumn and winter with the peak occurring somewhere between the end of November and March.
Last year's flu season was one of the worst in recent times. By October 6, the CDC had reported 183 pediatric deaths nationwide in the 2017-2018 season. This number surpassed the highest number (171 in 2012-13) of influenza-related childhood deaths during a regular flu season. In Minnesota, there were five pediatric deaths related to influenza.
The CDC reported that 80 percent of deaths occurred in children who did not receive the flu vaccine.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, 6,446 people were hospitalized in Minnesota during the 2017-1818 flu season. In Douglas County, 39 cases were hospitalized in Douglas County. Hanson said none of the cases will be counted in the winter months of 2018 (January, February, March).
Prevention is the key
According to the CDC, the best way to prevent the seasonal flu is to get vaccinated every year.
It takes about two weeks after the vaccine that antibodies to the flu develop in the body. Therefore, the CDC recommends that you be vaccinated early in the fall before the flu season begins. It is strongly recommended to shoot the flu until the end of October.
There are several types of flu vaccines, said Hanson. The type of vaccine depends on factors such as age, health status, pregnancy and allergies. Healthcare providers would know what kind of vaccine their patients should receive, she said.
"The most important thing is to get vaccinated, do not wait until some type of flu vaccine is available," she said.
People with egg allergy could safely get a flu vaccine, Hanson said, and life-threatening allergic reactions to the flu vaccine are very rare. She advised people to talk to their doctor if they ever had a life-threatening reaction to a flu vaccine.
Getting the flu shot later in the season can still be beneficial. Vaccinations should also be offered throughout the flu season, even in January and later.
There are many influenza viruses that are constantly changing. Influenza vaccines protect against the three or four viruses that, according to research, will be the most common. The composition of US influenza vaccines is reviewed and updated annually to match circulating influenza viruses.
Hanson gave some tips to the public to protect against the flu:
• To be vaccinated.
• Avoid being with other patients.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze or cough or sneeze in the sleeve.
• Wash your hands often with soap and water or a waterless, alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Protect infants by not exposing them to large crowds or sick family members if you have flu in your community.
• Do not drink cups and straws.
• Often clean frequently touched surfaces, including door handles, refrigerator handles, telephones and taps.
Infected with the flu?
When people suspect that they have the flu, Hanson said he should stay home, avoid contact with others, rest and drink plenty of fluids. For those in a high-risk group, such as 65 years or older, or people with asthma, Hanson suggested consulting a doctor.
When people get the flu and have trouble breathing, shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or flu-like symptoms that improve but recur with a worse fever or cough , Hanson urgently advised the doctor or the emergency room.
Antiviral medicines can provide some protection if someone has been exposed to the flu.
"Contact your doctor immediately if you have the flu and are at an increased risk for flu complications," she said.
Cold against the flu
Influenza can be mistaken for the common cold. Hanson explained that the flu is a respiratory disease caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. The disease is usually mild or moderate and does not require hospitalization.
But sometimes, she said, the flu can be severe and even death. And she found that the flu is not the same as the "stomach flu".
Symptoms of influenza, commonly referred to as "flu," include fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme fatigue, fever, and body aches. These symptoms usually start suddenly and may be so severe that people cease their daily activities
Colds are generally less severe than the flu. When you have a cold, people are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose. People with a cold can usually keep up with their normal activities. In contrast to a cold, the flu can lead to serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections and hospitalization.