According to the Health and Human Services Agency of San Diego, the number of influenza cases so far this “flu season” tripled last year’s numbers. Reports are saying that since Jul. 1, there were 316 “total reported influenza cases” compared to 103 reported cases at this point last year. Of those cases in 2017, there were two deaths.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, which can cause mild to severe illness. Serious outcomes of flu infection can result in hospitalization or even death. Some people, such as older people, young children and those with certain health conditions, are at high risk of serious flu complications.
Most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs and will recover in less than two weeks. But influenza at its worst can lead to pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. The flu can also make chronic health problems worse.
The Health and Human Services Agency of San Diego’s website says the “flu season” is hard to predict, but it usually begins in October or November and continues until as late as May. The website also states, “The best way to prevent influenza is by getting an influenza vaccination each year, washing hands frequently and avoiding close contact with ill persons.”
Dr. Jacqueline Reardon, FAAEM Chief in the Emergency Department at Scripps Mercy Hospital in Chula Vista, says the overall increase in cases of the influenza virus is something she’s seen for a few years now.
“During last year’s flu season, the overall [national] burden of influenza was substantial with an estimated 25 million influenza illnesses and 11 million influenza-associated medical visits,” said Reardon. “One hundred and eight influenza patients required intensive care (ICU) and 87 expired with influenza-associated illness.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most experts believe that flu viruses are spread mainly by tiny droplets from when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These tiny droplets can land in the mouths or noses of those nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu when touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
The CDC also argues that you do not have to be sick in order to pass along the virus. Although most people who have the flu are contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins, otherwise healthy adults may also infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop.
Brianna DeMelo, a junior media communications major at PLNU, recounted her experience with the influenza virus last year. With everyone around her getting sick left and right, and neglecting to get a flu vaccine, influenza hit her harder than ever before.
“I was hospitalized for two days, but recovering from this virus took a lot longer,” said DeMelo. “This year I made sure to go to my local physician to get a flu vaccine. Vaccinations are very beneficial for preventing this illness and it only takes a few minutes.”