Should You Be Worried About This Year's Flu Outbreak?

This year’s flu season is predicted to be the worse recorded and last through April. The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed 7 deaths from the flu and New Mexico is one of the 49 states on alert for widespread influenza activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Across the United States, physicians are treating patients who have the H3N2 (flu strain) as well as, Influenza like Illness (ILI). Colleen Lamb, RNC at Lovelace Medical Group shares, “We are experiencing a lot of patients with influenza like illness, ILI.” Symptoms can vary between patients.
Flu symptoms to watch out for include:
-Fever and chills
-Dry cough
-Sore throat
-Body aches
-Runny or stuffy nose
-Extreme fatigue
The flu is spread by either breathing in the virus from someone coughing, or from contacting the virus with your hands and touching your eyes, nose or mouth and transferring the virus.
So how can we protect ourselves? Lamb highlights the importance of getting a flu shot. She says, “There are many misconceptions about the flu shot. The vaccine does not contain live virus and is not able to give you the flu. It does stimulate your immune system to build antibodies to the flu strains in the vaccine. Some people think the shots are dangerous or ineffective, but that is false. The shot is very safe for most people and is effective against the most common strains of flu, as determined by the CDC.” 
There are several things you can do to protect yourself from the flu, such as:
-Getting the flu shot
-Practicing good hand washing 
-Covering your mouth while coughing and sneezing
-Avoid touching nose, eyes or mouth 
-Staying home if you are sick
-Avoiding those who are actively sick
FDA-approved antiviral medications such as Tamiflu, Relenza and Rapivab are the primary treatment options for those who test positive. There is a misconception antibiotics can treat influenza. Lamb confirms that antibiotics do not help treat the flu. She says, “Antibiotics are for bacteria and the flu is a virus. Doctors will not give you an antibiotic for your flu symptoms if you ask them because it will not have any effect on the virus causing your symptoms. Once you are seen by your provider, the best things you can do is to stay home, rest, try to keep hydrated and treat the fever and any other symptoms with over the counter medications.”
Although everyone is susceptible to the flu, Lamb talks about those who are at greater risk. She shares, “The elderly, pregnant women, children under 5 years old and those with chronic medical conditions are especially vulnerable and should be immunized, as well as those who are around them, to add further protection. There is still time to receive the flu shot and decrease the likelihood of contracting the flu.”
Protect yourself from the flu by getting your flu shot. To schedule a flu shot at one of our Primary Care or OB/GYN clinic locations, please call 505-727-2727.