Flu could be around another month or more

Flu could be around another month or more

Flu activity is “elevated” in Washington, with 15 influenza deaths reported statewide. During the 2017-18 flu season, a total of 296 people died.

A man in his 40s in Pierce County was the first flu-related death reported back in October.

Officials at MultiCare Health System note that the best protection against the flu virus is washing your hands regularly and getting the flu shot. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, there’s still time. The flu shot is effective as long as flu viruses are circulating.

Flu activity typically peaks between December and March, but it can last as late as May. Here, according to MultiCare, is what you need to know about navigating the peak flu season:

Flu shots are your best protection, and it’s not too late to get one.

Flu viruses are constantly changing, so each year the vaccine is updated based on which influenza viruses are making people sick. This year, the nasal spray flu vaccine is once again available as an alternative to the shot. It’s recommended for people ages 2 to 49, except for pregnant women.

The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of flu by about 50 to 60 percent, according to research conducted by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), which studies how well the vaccine protects against the flu each year. Traditional vaccines protect against three viruses — two influenza A viruses and one influenza B virus.

Even when the vaccine isn’t a good match against circulating viruses, it can still sometimes provide protection against different (but related) viruses, says the CDC.

Everyone older than six months old should get the flu shot, according to the CDC. It’s especially important for those at higher risk to get vaccinated:

  • Adults 65 and older.
  • Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
  • Children younger than 5 but especially younger than 2.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Native Americans.
  • People with certain medical conditions.

Pharmacies that offer the flu shot typically accept most forms of insurance, but be sure to let your primary care doctor know you received your flu shot so it can be added to your record.

Make an appointment with your primary care provider, pediatric provider, or visit a walk-in clinic.

You can take additional steps to avoid the flu.

Washing our hands is one of the most effective steps against illnesses such as the flu, but what else can you do?

  • Avoid crowded places and close contact with people who are sick.
  • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze.
  • Avoid touching your eyes and nose, as this is how flu viruses spread.

If you get sick, you can take steps to feel better.

The key to getting better is to stay home and rest. In addition, avoid close contact with family members so you don’t pass on the illness, drink plenty of fluids (dehydration is a serious complication in flu patients), treat fever and cough with over-the-counter medications for comfort, and if you have a flu-like illness, try to stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (unless you need to receive care).

If symptoms don’t improve, see your doctor.

If you experience a cough, fever or other flu symptoms that worsen or don’t improve, this is the time to see your doctor. The same goes if you are pregnant, over age 65, or otherwise at high risk of flu-related complications.

Difficulty breathing, inability to drink enough fluids, and irritability in children are some of the more serious signs of a significant influenza infection, which can lead to complications.