Time To Prepare For Flu Season

by James Brown

Updated October 20, 2023


It’s that time of year again, time to get prepared for flu season. In the United States, flu season typically runs from October to May.

However, peak flu activity can vary each year. While the timing of flu season is fairly predictable, it is always difficult to predict how severe a season will be.

“We have this saying in the industry – ‘If you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season,’” said Jon Schwarze, director of vaccines, Pharmaceutical Solutions and Services, McKesson. “Every flu season brings something different.

Dr. William Schaffner, past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, recently said something similar to the Washington Times – “We know an awful lot about the flu. Most importantly, we know how unpredictable it can be. That goes to the adage: ‘If you’ve seen one flu season, you’ve seen one flu season.

Past Flu Seasons Revisited

One way to better understand the risk presented by a new flu season is to look at what has occurred in the past.

For example, during the 2021-2022 influenza season, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that influenza was associated with 9 million illnesses, 4 million medical visits, 10,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths in the US.

In 2019, scientists conducted a global flu mortality rate study, called “The Global Burden of Disease Study (GBD).” That study estimated a range of 99,000 to 200,000 annual deaths from lower respiratory tract infections directly attributable to influenza.

To go back one more year in the United States, the CDC estimated that influenza was associated with more than 35.5 million illnesses, more than 16.5 million medical visits, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths during the 2018–2019 influenza season.

In other words, the flu consistently has a major impact on human health – and it’s not just in the US. In the UK, it is estimated that there are between 10,000 and 25,000 deaths a year related to the flu.

In Germany, it was reported that the number of flu-related deaths in 2018 was over 3,000. That number declined to 1,659 in 2019, 1,307 in 2020, and then dropped all the way down to 38 in 2021 when everyone was wearing masks and social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The bottom line is during flu season no matter where you are or what is going on in the world, you should also be concerned about the flu.

2023 Flu Forecast:

So, what are US experts expecting from this flu season? Well, as we previously stated, the flu season can be very hard to predict. However, experts currently believe that this season may not be as bad as last season.

They also feel that up-to-date data shows that this year's flu shot seems to be a good match for the flu types that are going to be primarily in circulation around the country.

That’s why they recommend that all individuals eligible for the flu shot, get it. They point out that yes you can still catch the flu if you get the flu shot, but you might not get as sick. The protection that a vaccine offers can help prevent major problems arising from the original flu.

The bottom line is getting a flu vaccine is still your best bet for avoiding the flu and the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age or older be vaccinated annually against influenza, especially those at higher risk, such as the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and individuals with chronic health conditions.

By the way, if you were wondering, the flu shot does not protect against COVID-19.

Influenza (the flu virus) and COVID-19 are caused by different viruses, and the vaccines developed for each target their respective viruses. The flu vaccine is designed to protect against influenza viruses, while COVID-19 vaccines, such as those developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others, are specifically created to provide immunity against the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.

That means it is important to get both the flu vaccine and the COVID-19 vaccine if you are eligible for both. This can help protect you from both illnesses and reduce the risk of serious complications, hospitalization, or death associated with both the flu and COVID-19.

However, a New Study Found That the Flu Shot May Reduce the Impact of COVID-19

A large study showed that the flu shot might make some of the worst effects of COVID-19 less likely.

In the study, researchers from the University of Miami in Florida looked at data from 37,377 COVID-19 patients in the US, several European countries, Israel, and Singapore who had gotten a seasonal flu vaccine and a similar number who had not been vaccinated.

The researchers found that people who contracted COVID-19 and had not been vaccinated against the flu were up to 20% more likely to have been admitted to intensive care than those who had gotten the seasonal flu shot. They were also up to 58% more likely to go to the emergency room or have a stroke, up to 45% more likely to get sepsis, and up to 40% more likely to get a type of blood clot called a deep vein thrombosis.

The researchers theorize that getting the flu shot helps the body's first line of defense against pathogens, the innate immune system, work better.

What Else Can You Do to Prevent the Flu?

The best strategy for preventing the flu involves a combination of vaccination, good hygiene practices, and healthy lifestyle choices. Here are some additional best practices for flu prevention this flu season:

●Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after coughing, sneezing, touching surfaces, or using the restroom. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

●Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick. If you have the flu, stay home from work, school, or social activities to prevent spreading it to others.

●When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue or the inside of your elbow to cover your mouth and nose. Dispose of used tissues immediately and wash your hands afterward.

●Regularly clean and disinfect common surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, countertops, and remote controls to reduce the spread of germs.

●Eat a balanced diet, get regular exercise, manage stress, and get enough sleep to keep your immune system in good shape. A strong immune system can help prevent illness.

●Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands, as this can introduce the virus into your body.

●Keep up-to-date with flu activity in your area and follow public health recommendations, such as getting vaccinated when a new vaccine becomes available.

If you are at high risk of developing severe complications from the flu, your doctor may prescribe antiviral medications, which can help reduce the severity and duration of symptoms if taken early in the illness.

If You Do Catch the Flu, Here Are Tips to Feel Better Faster

●One of the most important things you can do when you have the flu is to get plenty of rest. Your body needs extra energy to fight off the virus, so try to get enough sleep.

●Drink plenty of fluids, such as water, herbal tea, clear broths, and electrolyte solutions, to stay hydrated. Fluids help relieve congestion, loosen mucus, and prevent dehydration, which can worsen flu symptoms.

●Over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) can help reduce fever, relieve body aches, and ease headache and sore throat. Follow the recommended dosages and consult a healthcare provider if you have concerns about which medication to take.

●A humidifier can add moisture to the air and help alleviate congestion and dry throat. Make sure to clean the humidifier regularly to prevent the growth of mold and bacteria.

●Gargle with warm saltwater to relieve a sore throat and help reduce throat irritation.

●Avoid alcohol and caffeine as both can contribute to dehydration, so it's best to limit or avoid these beverages while you're sick.

●Opt for easily digestible foods like chicken soup, plain rice, or toast. These can provide comfort and essential nutrients without putting extra strain on your digestive system.

●Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke. Smoking can worsen respiratory symptoms and slow down the healing process.

●To prevent spreading the flu to others, stay home from work, school, and public places until you've been fever-free for at least 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medications.

●If your symptoms worsen, you have difficulty breathing, or you are in a high-risk group (such as the elderly or those with underlying health conditions), seek medical attention promptly.

Stay Up to Date with the CDC

If you are particularly concerned about the flu, one more thing you can do is to regularly visit the CDC’s website at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. On this page the CDC issues a weekly Influenza Surveillance Report that tracks the number of cases reported and even includes a map of the US that shows where cases are concentrated.

You can then use the information to improve your chances of avoiding the flu and maintaining good health.
Article by
James Brown
Hello,I'm James, an editor at BeWellFinder, where I'm dedicated to sharing my expertise to provide you with valuable insights.

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