This flu season has been one the of the worst outbreaks of influenza America has seen in years, causing the most hospitalizations in the past decade. Influenza is a viral infection of the respiratory passages which causes several symptoms including fever, headache, severe body aches, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue, vomiting and mucus buildup.
Currently, around 7.7 percent of all hospital visits in America are due to the flu. Hospitalization rates in California alone have quadrupled since 2014 according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The influenza A (H3N2) virus is known for causing more illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths than the influenza B (H1N1) strain. The flu vaccine typically offers lower protection against the H3N2 strain, leaving many people baffled when contracting an illness they thought they had protected themselves from.
Current statistics from the CDC state that there have been 63 pediatric deaths caused from influenza this year.
It seems as though no matter where you are, whether it be school, work or even at home, someone around you has contracted the flu. People over the age of 65, young children, people with condition such as diabetes, heart disease or asthma and pregnant women are more susceptible to contracting the flu than others.
Kristin Sullivan, CSUSB alumna and current RN at San Antonio Hospital in Upland, California, says “With this being the hardest hitting flu season in almost 20 years, we have had to open up areas of the hospital that had been previously closed to accommodate more patients on a daily basis. This requires nurses to be pulled from their “home” floors to work in these temporary areas. This has put a strain on not only nurses but managers as well, who have to make sure they have enough staff each day.”
Sullivan also states, “In regards to staff, space, and testing, hospitals have systems in place to deal with large amounts of patients. There has however been a nationwide shortage of IV fluid bags used to mix antibiotics, which has most hospitals using other methods to deliver essential antibiotics. Some hospitals have run out of Tamiflu, the oral anti-viral medication for treatment of the flu in high-risk patients, others have had to set up temporary triage tents, and some have even had to temporarily close their emergency departments.“
According to the CDC There are several ways to avoid attracting this illness.
First things first: prevent the spread of germs. Wash your hands with soap and remember to scrub for approximately 20 seconds.
Do not share drinks or utensils with others. Isolate infected toothbrushes in your home. Once the ill person gets well replace the toothbrush or toothbrush head.
If you use a humidifier, be sure to clean it on a daily basis to prevent germ buildup. Keep remotes, doorknobs and light switches sanitized to eliminate potential germs.
If you find yourself coming down with the flu, there is no need to worry. Antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu are available for those suffering from serious complications; but, typically those with mild symptoms do not need antiviral drugs to overcome this illness according to the CDC.
For those of you who have unfortunately already suffered from this illness, you are unlikely to contract the same strain of influenza that you previously had. But, this does not mean that you will not contract another strain of influenza or that you are completely immune from becoming ill again.
Overall, the influenza virus has hit Americans extremely hard this season. Do your part in keeping yourself and others around you protected from this sickness by not spreading germs to one another.