During the flu season you might have a lot of questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will help you better understand what to do and how to protect yourself from flu. You can learn more on their website. You also can protect yourself from flu if you buy a Visitor Health Insurance with good medical coverage. That will help you to get a medical help right away and get well faster. Please go on our website to learn more.
It’s not possible to predict what this flu season will be like. While flu spreads every year, the timing, severity, and length of the season varies from one year to another.
Flu viruses are constantly changing so it’s not unusual for new flu viruses to appear each year. For more information about how flu viruses change, visit How the Flu Virus Can Change.
The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year. This time of year is called “flu season.” In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February and can last as late as May. CDC monitors certain key flu indicators (for example, outpatient visits of influenza-like illness (ILI), the results of laboratory testing and reports of flu hospitalizations and deaths). When these indicators rise and remain elevated for a number of consecutive weeks, “flu season” is said to have begun. Usually ILI increases first, followed by an increase in flu-associated hospitalizations, which is then followed by increases in flu-associated deaths.
For the most current influenza surveillance information, please see FluView at Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report.
The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary in different parts of the country and from season to season. Seasonal flu viruses can be detected year-round; however, seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.
The exact number of flu illnesses that occur each season is not known because flu is not a reportable disease and not everyone who gets sick with the flu seeks medical care or gets tested. CDC conducts surveillance of flu activity year round through several surveillance systems, such as the Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network (ILINet), which collects information on outpatient illness, and FluSurv-Net, which collects information on hospitalizations. For more information, see CDC’s Overview of Influenza Surveillance in the United States page. However, to estimate the true burden of flu illness in the United States, including total flu cases, CDC uses mathematical modeling in combination with data from these traditional flu surveillance systems. CDC estimates that flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses each year in the United States since 2010. For more information on these estimates, see CDC’s Disease Burden of Influenza page.
CDC estimates the total number of flu-associated hospitalizations in the United States. While CDC’s flu surveillance systems, such as FluSurv-NET, monitor rates of flu-associated hospitalizations in the United States, flu surveillance has limitations because most surveillance systems only capture portions of the U.S. population and in some cases can under-report severe illness, including flu hospitalizations. That is why CDC also uses mathematical modeling to fill in the picture of the disease burden. Since 2010, CDC estimates that flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year. For more information, see CDC’s Disease Burden of Influenza page.
While flu deaths in children must be reported to CDC, flu deaths in adults are not nationally notifiable. CDC uses mortality data collected by the National Center for Health Statistics to monitor relative levels of flu-associated deaths. This system tracks the proportion of death certificates processed that list pneumonia or influenza as the underlying or contributing cause of death of the total deaths reported. This system provides an overall indication of whether flu-associated deaths are elevated, but does not provide an exact number of how many people died from flu. For more information, see Overview of Influenza Surveillance in the United States, “Mortality Surveillance.”
As it does for the numbers of flu cases, doctor’s visits and hospitalizations, CDC also estimates deaths in the United States using mathematical modeling. CDC estimates that from 2010-2011 to 2013-2014, influenza-associated deaths in the United States ranged from a low of 12,000 (during 2011-2012) to a high of 56,000 (during 2012-2013). Death certificate data and weekly influenza virus surveillance information was used to estimate how many flu-related deaths occurred among people whose underlying cause of death on their death certificate included respiratory or circulatory causes. For more information, see Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States and CDC’s Disease Burden of Influenza page.
Influenza viruses usually infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the airways of the nose, throat and lungs). As the infection increases, the body’s immune system responds to fight the virus infection. This results in inflammation that can trigger respiratory symptoms such as cough and sore throat. The immune system response can also trigger fever and cause muscle or body aches. When infected persons cough, they can spread influenza viruses in respiratory droplets to someone next to them; persons can also become infected through contact with infectious secretions or contaminated surfaces. Most people who become sick will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people may become more severely ill. Following flu infection, secondary ear and sinus infections can occur. For example, some people may develop pneumonia. This can happen to anyone, but may be more likely to happen to people who have certain chronic medical conditions, or in elderly persons.
Most people with the flu have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. If you get sick with flu symptoms, in most cases, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.
If, however, you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick or worried about your illness, contact your health care provider (doctor, physician assistant, etc.). There are drugs your doctor may prescribe for treating the flu called “antivirals.” These drugs can make you better faster and also may prevent serious complications.
Antiviral drugs are prescription drugs that can be used to treat flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications (such as children younger than 5 years, adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, people with certain long-term medical conditions, and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities) and people who are very sick with flu (such as those hospitalized because of flu) should get antiviral drugs. Other people can be treated with antivirals at their health care professional’s discretion. Treating high risk people or people who are very sick with flu with antiviral drugs is very important. Studies show that prompt treatment with antiviral drugs can prevent serious flu complications. Prompt treatment can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Treatment with antivirals works best when begun within 48 hours of getting sick, but can still be beneficial when given later in the course of illness. Antiviral drugs are effective across all age and risk groups. Studies show that antiviral drugs are under-prescribed for people who are at high risk of complications who get flu. Three FDA-approved antiviral medications are recommended for use during the 2017-2018 flu season: oseltamivir (available in generic versions and under the trade name Tamiflu®), zanamivir (Relenza®), and peramivir (Rapivab®). More information about antiviral drugs can be found at Treatment – Antiviral Drugs.
See “The Flu: What To Do If You Get Sick” for more information.
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