Naughty Or Nice? What To Expect For Flu Season 2018-2019

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Every year, millions of Americans come down with the flu. And every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized as a result of the virus, ranging from around 140,000 to as high as 959,000– as was the case during the 2017-2018 flu season, which saw the highest rate of influenza deaths in the U.S. in the past 40 years.

So what can you expect for flu season 2018-2019? That depends on a variety of factors—especially the efficiency of this year’s vaccine.

“There are always new strains of influenza developing around the world,” says Sean Drake, M.D., an internal medicine doctor with Henry Ford Health System. “Every year, vaccine manufacturers make their best guess as to which strains to target, and some years are more effective matches than others.”

Regardless of how well this year’s vaccine keeps the flu at bay, your best bet for protecting yourself and your loved ones from influenza is to get a flu shot.

“Ideally, you’ll have already gotten your flu shot in October,” Drake says. “But if you haven’t gotten it yet, get it now.”

Before you get your annual dose, however, here are a few FAQs about influenza and the flu vaccine.

Influenza FAQs

Q: Who should get a flu shot?

A: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone six months of age or older receive a flu shot. People 65 and older are at higher risk for serious complications from the flu, so it’s recommended that they receive a high-dose vaccine.

Q: Should I get the high-dose vaccine if I’m under 65 years old?

A: If you’re under 65 years old, you can ask to receive the high-dose vaccine, but its potential risks and benefits haven’t been well studied. Typically, a standard dose flu shot will suffice for a younger person. Senior citizens receive the high-dose vaccine because their immune systems are weaker and the higher dose allows their bodies to produce a stronger immune response.

Q: If I get a dose of the flu vaccine early in the year, and another dose later, will it be more effective?

A: There’s currently no definitive evidence that a second dose will protect you from the flu any better than a single dose will. If you receive the shot in October, its effects will typically last until March or April. However, for children ages six months through eight years, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends two doses since their immune systems have had less time to be exposed to the influenza virus.

Q: Is this year’s flu season expected to be mild or severe?<

A: As of early December 2018, flu activity was low overall but increasing in the United States. You can keep tabs on the CDC’s flu season data here.

Q: What’s the difference between influenza and the stomach flu? What about the common cold?

A: People often confuse influenza—commonly referred to as ‘the flu’—with the stomach flu. Influenza is the seasonal flu and typically includes symptoms like fever, aches, chills, cough and a headache. The stomach flu typically includes symptoms like vomiting, nausea and diarrhea.

Like influenza, the common cold can also come with a fever or a headache, but more typical symptoms include a cough, runny nose and a sore throat. And unlike influenza, which hits suddenly, the common cold affects people more gradually.

Regardless of whether you think you have the flu or the common cold, Dr. Drake recommends to monitor your symptoms as closely as possible, and remember that if caught early, the flu can be treated easily with several medications. “If it is the flu, getting seen within the first 48 hours is key to receiving antiviral therapy,” Dr. Drake says. “Beyond the first 48 hours, the antiviral therapy is not proven to be helpful at which point we talk about symptom control.”

Hopefully, of course, a flu shot will prevent those symptoms from showing up at all


Need a flu shot? Henry Ford Health System offers walk-in flu shots at these locations. Also, if you or your child is sick, check out our many convenient same-day care options at henryford.com/sameday.

Dr. Sean Drake is an internal medicine physician seeing patients at Henry Ford Medical Center – Sterling Heights.

Categories: FeelWell