Communities across the country have been hit with a strong and dangerous flu season. The CDC and NY State Department of Health are reporting that many more people have been to the doctor, ER or hospital this season for flu than last year. Those at high risk for serious disease include those over the age of 50, children, pregnant women and people with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma, lung disease, and heart disease. Many more people are susceptible to this year’s predominant flu virus. While this year’s flu vaccine may not protect you as well as prior years—it is still a good idea to get the vaccine to try to have some protection. It is not too late to get the vaccine now. Also, if you believe that you have the flu (fever more than 100 degrees, body aches, headache, runny or stuffy nose and feeling weak and ill) and are moderately or very sick, see your doctor immediately. This is especially the case for people at high risk of complications. You can be prescribed antiviral flu medicine within the first two days of illness. The Health Center and CDC recommends these actions to protect your family from the flu or from spreading the flu:
- Get the vaccine. Even if you get the flu after the vaccine, symptoms may be less.
- Avoid being near people who are sick.
- Wash your hands with soap and water as much as possible
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze, using a tissue or the inside of your elbow.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have with germs like the flu, like doorknobs.
- If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without a fever reducer) except to get medical care. Limit being around others to not spread the flu.
- If you have the flu, talk to your doctor to see if you need medication.
You can learn more here about ways to protect yourself and loved ones from the flu. If you believe you may have the flu, call the Health Center for an appointment at (212) 379-6998.
Written by Dr. Perry Pong
Dr. Pong is the chief medical officer at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. He received his medical degree from the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, and completed his residency training at Veterans Affairs Medical Center New York. Dr. Pong is board-certified in internal medicine.