Flu season is here again. The flu virus has many strains and mutates quickly. Because we have been unable to eradicate the flu virus, we must deal with it every winter. Since the yearly flu vaccine was developed, the death rate from influenza in the United States has dropped to less than 50,000 per year.
The very young, the elderly, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems are more prone to get the flu and become very sick. For this reason, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that all persons over 6 months of age be vaccinated. The vaccine comes in various forms, including nasal spray and injection, and has three to four of the most common strains to stimulate your immune system. In addition, you can protect yourself from being infected by washing your hands or using alcohol gel often.
Even after you are vaccinated, you can still get the flu because the vaccine does not contain all the strains of the flu virus. Although we see patients who have been vaccinated but have gotten the flu, their symptoms tend to be less severe than those who have not been vaccinated. Indeed, we have seen patients in their thirties through fifties who have never been vaccinated and who have died from the flu. Therefore, unless you have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or any ingredient of it, we recommend that you get the vaccine every year.
If you get the flu, stay home, drink lots of liquids, and seek medical help if you do not get better relatively soon. Anti-flu medications such as Tamiflu work best within two to three days after you develop symptoms. Antibiotics such as Z-Pak may also be effective if you have a bacterial infection on top of the flu.
About Dr. Luong T. Ly
Dr. Ly is a board certified Infectious Disease specialist. He is a graduate of St. George's University School of Medicine. He is currently the Chief of Staff of San Gabriel Valley Medical Center and has been a member of the SGVMC medical staff since 2010.