Flu Season Tips For Protection Against Infection

The 2017-2018 flu season was, unfortunately, one of the worst the United States has ever experienced. According to estimates, more than 900,000 hospitalizations took place while over 80,000 people died.

The difference was significant as it was the first season to be classified as a high severity across all age groups. Now, as we near the 2018-2019 season, it is essential that we understand the factors that contributed to the severity. 

When looking at strains, influenza A viruses were highly prevalent last year, particularly H3N2. This virus is said to be the toughest one for vaccines to protect against, leading to more serious cases of the flu.

Based on clues from the flu season which is coming to end in the Southern Hemisphere, it appears that that activity is quite low, with H1N1 strains being more common than H3N2.

"It's cautiously good news that it might be a milder season than we saw last year — so fingers crossed," says Dr. Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention at Johns Hopkins Health System in Baltimore.

However, she does emphasize that flu seasons cannot be predicted with certainty. And even if the severity is low, it does not mean people are safe from being infected.

Maragakis, like other health experts, strongly urges people to not skip their annual flu shot. In fact, an unvaccinated child in Florida has already died from flu, marking the first pediatric death to have taken place this season.

Surveys have shown that many people still subscribe to a number of myths surrounding vaccines, believing that the shot could put them and their children in danger. None of these myths have any scientific basis, as noted by board-certified pediatrician Dr. Jean Moorjani.

"After extensive studies, we know that the flu vaccine is safe," Moorjani stated. "You cannot get autism from the flu vaccine. It is not a conspiracy for doctors to recommend the flu vaccine. Doctors recommend it because we know — based on science, research, and facts — that it is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu."

As per guidelines, every person who is six months of age or older should get vaccinated. Of course, pregnant mothers must get vaccinated to not only protect themselves but also their baby.

A milder season is also not an excuse to slack off in the personal hygiene department. This means using a tissue to cover your mouth and nose whenever coughing or sneezing. Handwashing needs to be practiced regularly and correctly.

In a report from earlier this year, it was found that a majority of Americans are not using the right technique when washing their hands. This can lead to cross-contamination, increasing the risk of infection and illness among children and older adults in particular.