The flu season is off to an early and dangerous start. Southern and southwestern states, in particular, are reporting large numbers of people with the flu in ER rooms and doctor's offices seeking relief.
Many doctors have said that they began seeing patients with the flu or flu-like symptoms as early as Thanksgiving and a few even said they saw patients in September. That's far ahead of the normal beginning of the flu season in December and January.
Typically, the flu just makes people very sick for a week or two, but it can also be deadly for the very young, the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
However, even people who are otherwise healthy can suffer a fatal bout with the virus.
Max Schwolert , a 17-year-old athletic boy in Flower Mound, Texas, died over the holidays from a staph infection that developed after he became ill with the flu.
The heartbreaking death of the popular teen has prompted many of his friends and community to get their flu shot.
Even though the flu season is currently active, it's not too late to get a flu shot. Understand, some people still get the flu even when they've been vaccinated- but they usually have less severe symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is saying that this flu season is stronger than usual and is expected to continue to get worse.
Anyone over the age of 6 months can and should receive the flu vaccine. Besides your pediatrician or doctor's office, there are other locations that are providing flu shots such as local pharmacies, clinics and health departments. As more and more people decide to get vaccinated, supplies of the vaccine could start being in short supply so don't delay.
Other steps you can take to help prevent getting or spreading the flu are:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Children are particularly susceptible to getting a cold or the flu. Make sure your child washes their hands when they get home from school and after play dates. You can also check with their school or day care to see what policies are in effect to help prevent the spread of colds and viruses.
This flu season has started early and is gaining steam. It's not one to take lightly.