Flu Season

  Medical professionals worry that this year’s flu season will be severe due to low levels of immunity and the easing up of coronavirus restrictions. Flu season annually occurs every fall and winter and is a time when many succumb to the respiratory illness that prevents them from attending school or work. 

      Flu season has gone under the radar in the previous two years thanks to Covid-19. The mask mandates and social distancing helped to reduce the chance of contracting any type of illness. However, now that the regulations have been removed, we are to expect an increase in the number of cases. 

      Virologist with the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Andrew Pekosz, described how “this poses a risk, especially to young children who may not have had much if any, previous exposure to influenza viruses before this season because of the pandemic precautions that were put in place – the masking, the social distancing.”

      Other than young children, others who are considered high-risk include pregnant people, people 65 years of age or older, and those who are immunocompromised. The CDC recommends that people six months of age and older receive an annual flu shot.

      Flu shots are a common resolution that reassures many they will avoid falling ill with this viral infection. Flu shots inject a weaker version of the influenza virus that trains our bodies to identify the proteins that coat the actual virus. Studies from the CDC show that vaccination reduces the risk of contracting the virus by between 40% and 60% among seasons where the virus is especially prominent. 

      However, the protection ensured by a vaccine depends on multiple factors. It relies on the age and health of the person, as well as how accurately the vaccine matches the current virus spreading through the population. 

      Doctors often recommend getting flu vaccines between September and October, before  or at the beginning of this annual period. Symptoms of flu shots include headaches, a possible fever, and soreness around the injection area. 

      The flu is highly contagious as it can travel through the air when someone coughs, sneezes, or talks. These droplets can then be ingested by others, and often reside on frequently used objects and surfaces. People often unknowingly transfer these microscopic droplets from their hands to their eyes, nose, or mouth; giving way to sickness. 

      Common self-diagnosable symptoms of the flu include having a fever, chills, muscle pains, cough, congestion, and fatigue. Similarly, loss of appetite, chest pressure, head congestion, nausea, and shortness of breath are also relatively common. 

      Internal medicine physician at Atlantic Medical Group Primary Care, Dr. Brittany Mueller, shared how “it’s hard to anticipate what trends we will see with each flu season, but we usually look to the Southern Hemisphere for clues.” She then explained, “Australia tracks their flu cases very carefully, and we know that their flu season started earlier than usual this year and had a high number of cases.”

      While flu season may feel daunting and dangerous as it once again resurfaces after Covid-19, precautions can be taken to ensure the severity of the virus doesn’t weaken our immune system or have fatal effects.