Texas is one of 10 states seeing a significant increase in cases of the flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), rhinovirus, and other flu-like respiratory illnesses this winter. In Dallas County, the major circulating virus is influenza A (H3N2) which tends to be associated with higher death rates and hospitalizations. As of Dec. 30, 2017, nearly 29 percent of patient specimens were positive for influenza, compared with just over 25 percent nationally.
Getting the flu can be miserable, causing fevers, body aches, chills, and severe sinus symptoms. Reduce your family’s risk by following a few simple precautions at home and at work.
Tips to avoid the flu
First and foremost, consider getting a flu shot if you haven’t already. This is especially important if you live with children, seniors, or immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV or who are undergoing chemotherapy.
Protect yourself from the flu virus and prevent the spread of other upper respiratory illnesses day to day by following these tips:
- Avoid sharing drinking glasses, silverware, towels, or personal hygiene items
- Cover your mouth with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze
- Disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as faucets, toilet handles, door knobs, and light switches
- Wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds (the amount of time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice)
If you do get the flu, stay home if possible. In the short term, it can be stressful to miss a few shifts or have to find someone to cover for you, but your co-workers and employer will thank you for keeping the virus to yourself. Resting and recovering at home will get you back to work healthier and quicker than trying to push through your symptoms.
Is the flu vaccine effective this year?
Patients often ask whether the flu vaccine is effective. In 2018, the majority of influenza viruses collected in the U.S. since Oct. 1, 2017, are genetically similar to the cell-grown viruses researchers used to make our current batch of vaccinations. Though the flu virus does change from season to season, getting a flu vaccination is the most effective way to prevent infection. For those who get the vaccination and subsequently still get the flu, the symptoms often are less severe and recovery is quicker.
As long as the flu is circulating, we recommended all patients age 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. Getting a flu shot can reduce your risk, even if it’s later in the season. Request an appointment with your primary care doctor or call 214-645-8300 to get your flu shot.