ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – The flu season is just getting underway, and it won’t hit its nasty peak until early January through the end of February.
But Dr. Nestor Ramirez, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, is warning everyone not to take the flu too lightly and shrug off its potential impact.
“People sort of use the three-letter word ‘flu’ and it’s sort of like ‘Meh, it’s not a big deal,'” Ramirez tells KMOX. “It’s the Influenza-A virus which can be a very, very serious disease. It costs us about 13,000 deaths in the United States per year.”
He acknowledges that the 2017-18 flu season is off to a bit of a slow start.
“But the problem is that the strain of virus that is responsible for this year’s epidemic, which is the H3-N2, is probably one of the most violent strains, and it’s the one that produces more hospitalizations than others,” Ramirez says.
He says projections from the recently ended Australian epidemic show that one in 10 people who received the vaccination were actually protected from the flu.
And there’s another problem that could contribute to the flu’s spread, according to Ramirez.
“The problem with the vaccine is that it takes several weeks or months to make several million doses, so by the time they make them, they really don’t know which of the strains of the virus is going to be the most pre-dominant,” he explains.
Regardless, he recommends getting a flu vaccination.
In the meantime, Ramirez says there are ways of limiting the flu’s spread, including:
- Avoid contact with someone who is sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth/nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Clean your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Ramirez says the workplace is one of the most common places where the flu virus can spread.
“The key to prevention is trying to avoid people who come to work sick, and try to get the bosses to realize that they could be causing a serious issue if they let sick employees come to work,” he says.
He suggests letting a sick worker stay home a couple of days to recover will prevent serious problems down the line.
Ramirez adds that you can Google the nearest location where they have a stronger vaccine strain that is most indicated for older patients, and where you can find the nasal spray version for those who want to avoid needles.