Flu Season Has Arrived
With Cindy Dion Noyes, MD, University of Vermont Health Network Medical Group, UVM Medical Center Infectious Disease
Influenza has arrived in our region and is considered to be widespread at this time. This means that at least half of the regions in the state of VT and NY are reporting laboratory confirmed influenza (usually with a nasal swab).
Current Regional Strains
The current strains we are seeing locally include two strains of influenza A (H3N2 and H1N1) as well as one strain of influenza B. Without laboratory testing, one can’t tell the difference between an infection with A or B. All of the strains can cause fever, cough, sinus congestion or more serious symptoms like difficulty breathing.
Catch the Flu Twice?
A recent infection with one flu strain doesn’t mean you’re protected from other strains. So it’s important to remember that certain measures can help prevent influenza:
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after sneezing/coughing/blowing your nose.
- Practice cough/sneezing etiquette or cough into your elbow or a tissue.
- If you are sick with fever, cough, sinus congestion, stay home and take care of yourself.
- Get your flu vaccine!
There’s Still Time to Protect Yourself
It’s not too late to get vaccinated as flu season lasts into April in this region. The vaccine includes protection for the strains we are seeing in the community though the true protective benefits or efficacy of the vaccine will not be known until later in the season. It takes about 2 weeks for the body to respond to the vaccine with development of protective proteins or antibodies, thus there is still plenty of time for the vaccine to offer protection for you if you haven’t yet been vaccinated.