ACHOO! The flu bug has come early this season

Dec 13, 2017

Not feeling well? Maybe with a fever and a tummy that doesn't feel good? You may have joined this year's early flu season.

Credit National Public Radio

Did you have your flu shot? Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein says it may or may not be completely effective against the flu virus variants circulating this year, but it is a lot better than no protection.

The viruses attacked by the vaccine are chosen far before the flu season because it takes a while to grow the necessary material in the millions of eggs needed. Burstein says everyone will have to wait to see how well this year's shot battles the bug.
          
"Much of the influenza that they recognize now that is circulating is a fairly good match with the strains in the vaccine," she says. "However, that can change at any time. We know that the flu virus is very smart and it can mutate pretty quickly and so we'll have to see when we start to see more influenza."

The Centers for Disease Control are showing sharp increases in the number of positive tests for the virus. Burstein says the big concern isn't those who will get the flu and be miserable for a few days.

"But there are other people that can catch the same infection and actually become very sick because their immune system doesn't work properly or they have another health condition that puts them at risk of becoming very ill with viruses bacterial that in an otherwise healthy person would just be a minor illness," she says.

Besides the vaccination, Burstein says there are things you can do to protect yourself.

"You can wash your hands," Burstein says. "You can stay away from people that are sick and then help protect others if you are sick by staying away from them. If you're sick, stay home for a couple of days, especially if you are coughing and sneezing or have diarrhea or vomiting."

Burstein says, if you sneeze, do it into your arm rather than your hand, which might touch something else.
If you visit the doctor during the flu season, ask whether all of the people in the office have been vaccinated.

Credit New York State Department of Health