Ah, it’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colours, the air is crisp and refreshing, there’s pumpkin-spice everything—everywhere; and people are dropping like flies. That’s right—it’s flu season.
And even though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention generally don’t start keeping a running count of flu cases until the end of October, as a university student, I’m already starting to notice it. Less and less people are coming to class, and even professors have cancelled a class or two. Flu season usually begins in October and goes right through until May, and doctors are urging people to get their vaccinations sooner rather than later, since it takes about two weeks for the body to build up immunity against the virus.
People are understandably sceptical about getting their flu vaccinations this time around after last flu season; the vaccinations that were given to the public for the 2014-2015 flu season were only about 19% effective after the virus mutated. Last flu season was one of the deadliest in 15 years.
However, this year’s flu vaccine is different than last season’s; it includes a new quadrivalent vaccine that will protect against four strains of influenza viruses. Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University’s Department of Medicine, says, “Our crystal balls are a little cloudy at this point this year, but the H3N2 virus should be the dominant strain this year. While it tends to produce more influenza symptoms, and that’s the bad news, the good news is now the vaccine has been modified and it does include H3N2 strain, so it ought to be more on target with the dominant strain of the virus this year.”
Dr. Schaffner also says that this season’s vaccine includes influenza B—which is another strain that made a lot of people sick last year.
The flu comes in different forms with different symptoms, but its most common symptoms include aches, pains, fever, chills, fatigue, nausea and/or vomiting, coughing, sore throat, and stuffy or runny nose. While the flu is manageable for most, it isn’t for many. 146 children died last flu season, while an estimated whopping 3,000 to 49,000 people worldwide die each season because of the flu. It’s especially dangerous for children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma.
So, what do you do if you get the flu?
If you think you have the flu, it’s suggested to immediately go to your doctor and ask for antiviral medicine, which can reduce both your symptoms and the days that you’re sick.
But most importantly: Get vaccinated.
“Don’t wait,” Schaffner said. “Some rather elegant studies have shown it is more effective the earlier you take them and you become less infectious to others.” Most influenza immunization clinics open to the public in two weeks for people six months of age and older.