Nurse Marsha Battee answers the question, “Why is the flu so bad this year?” and goes on to tell you how to fight it:
The flu has serious consequences and this season has been brutal. A reader asked “Why is the flu so bad this year?” Here’s the breakdown followed by 3 simple strategies to stay well:
Reason #1 – 43% of people STILL believe that the flu shot gives you the flu.
And guess what? That percentage of the population won’t get vaccinated! Even though they look and feel healthy, they are passing the virus to others and compromising herd immunity.
The real reason people get sick is often due to an unknown cold or flu brewing just prior to getting the vaccine. This is an unfortunate coincidence. It is also possible to feel run down while producing antibodies, but this is sometimes caused by anticipation or fear of becoming sick (also called the placebo affect). So, just to be clear, neither the flu shot nor the nasal spray will give you the flu.
Reason #2 – 23% effectiveness of the flu vaccine this year.
On a good year, the vaccine is between 50-60% effective. Why so low this year? This season, the flu virus H3N2 has had a bit of a “drift,” meaning it’s mutated slightly from the original H3N2 virus used to make the flu vaccine. We are fully protected against the H3N2 virus but might catch variations of the H3N2 that have developed since the vaccine was manufactured. There is “partial protection” against the H3N2 mutations. That means you’ll still get sick, but not as bad.
Reason #3 – Resistance to antiviral medications.
Resistance is a result of practitioners prescribing antivirals on a “just in case” basis and without confirming the diagnosis with a nasal swab. Antivirals should be given within 48 hours of the first sign of the flu or they have little benefit. This is the reason why practitioners are providing prescriptions without an office visit–so that patients can take the medication as soon as they feel sick. Unfortunately, patients don’t diagnose the flu correctly, and by taking unnecessary antiviral medication, they are promoting resistance to the drug.
So, do we really have to lose our battle with the flu?
Good news is… we don’t have to! Adhering to simple practices before and during the peak season will help you kick that flu to the curb. Here are 3 simple practices to avoid getting sick:
Simple Practice #1 – Wash your hands and/or use hand sanitizer.
Don’t let the flu prevail because of poor hygiene. Simply wash your hands after contact with potentially contaminated people (or surfaces). It is the number one way to combat viruses.
Simple Practice #2 – Get the flu shot.
No matter what time of year, the flu vaccine provides the second best protection against catching the virus. Even with 50-60% effectiveness, partial protection is better than no protection at all.
Simple Practice #3 – Invest in wellness.
Depending on your situation, mindful health practices will boost your immune system by keeping those immune cells ready for action. I encourage you to:
- Eat plenty of veggies, fruits, nuts, and whole grains.
- Reduce stress levels and ensure appropriate sleep habits.
- Maintain a consistent exercise routine.
- Abstain from smoking and drinking.
There you have it! For more cold and flu related reading, check out these articles: 4 Tips To Keep Your Cold To Yourself, Cold Remedies That Work, FEAR Of Flu Shot Spreads Faster Than The Flu, Insider Tips For A Painless Flu Shot.