Local Doctors Weigh In On the Flu
Feb 07, 2018 04:06PM
● By Ashley Madonna
Flu season is never fun, but this year’s splint of illness feels like it's dragged on for ages. While the virus is thoroughly leaving its mark all across the country, it’s clear that the Metroplex specifically has greatly been affected. DoctorsReport.com, a new website and mobile app that gives users access to data doctors’ reports from health professionals from all over the U.S., released its current list of the nation’s 14 influenza hot spots. And you’ll never guess who made the cut.
Their Doctors Report Illness Tracker ranks different metro areas based on a severity scale, with 10 being most severe and 0 being the least. And Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington is currently sitting at a 6.5, making it the ninth largest hot spot in the country. It also recorded Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington at a 4.0 for Influenza A, a more severe strand of the illness, giving it another ninth-place spot.
Even if you got the shot or feel fine now, there are still a few things you should know to avoid contracting the flu. We asked a few local health professionals why Dallas became such a hotspot for the virus and what residents can do to stay healthy.
This Year’s Strand
This year’s flu is harsher than year’s past. Why may you ask? It all boils down to the strain.
“The predominant strain of influenza this year is H3N2. H3N2 is a strain that is particularly virulent,” Dr. Alan Dennington says.
This means that it’s a more contagious strand, so it’s easier for the illness to spread from person to person. But it also means that people have a higher likelihood of contracting other illnesses.
“There has been a higher incidence of secondary infections such as pneumonia, leading to a higher mortality rate,” Dr. Jeff Pebbles says.
And while this meant more people got sick quicker, it didn’t help that it presented itself so early this year.
“The flu season also started earlier this year, which caused a larger number of infections early on that have been given more time than usual to spread,” Dr. Dennington says.
Awareness Of Your Surroundings
The flu virus can easily find new targets. It is constantly looking to find a new host. And because the Metroplex is so densely populated, it’s no surprise this virus makes its way around town.
“The DFW area is definitely a hotspot for the flu,” Dr. Jeff Pebbles says. “The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is spread by person to person contact. Any time a person infected with the flu coughs, sneezes or even talks, tiny droplets of the virus are aerosolized.”
And if all of your loved ones feel fine, you can easily meet someone or walk past someone who doesn’t.
“The large number of people in close proximity to one another that you find in a big city makes the disease easier to spread,” Dr. Dennington says. “Every day, you interact with large numbers of people and strangers who are potentially carrying the flu virus.”
The biggest precautious measure you can take to protect yourself from the flu is to get the shot. But sadly, that alone will not fully protect you from the virus.
“The flu shot this year is providing a 30 percent protection against the flu,” Dr. Dennington says. “This is obviously not a perfect cure but still very helpful.
Don’t let that number stop you. Even though the shot’s protection rate has been higher in the past, it’s never been a perfect science. But it’s still your best shot at protecting yourself and your kids from the virus.
“First, even though it isn't as effective this year, it's still recommended that you get the flu vaccine,” Dr. Pebbles says.
Doctors also say getting the shot early will up your chances of staying healthy throughout the season.
“It is best to get the flu shot in the fall before flu season because it takes around two weeks from the time you get the flu shot for your body to produce the necessary antibodies,” Dr. Dennington says. “Flu season will still be around for another 4 to 5 weeks, so there is still benefit in getting the shot.”
You should also practice good hygiene skills, like frequent hand washing with hot water and covering your mouth when you cough. You can also take active measures to boost your immune system, like getting plenty of rest, drinking lots of fluids and eating a healthy diet.
Coming Down With It
If you start to come down with the flu, don’t panic. While it can be stressful to think about everything involved with being sick, it’s important to stay calm and act fast. You’ll want to get diagnosed quickly, so it’s important to visit your doctor as soon as possible.
“If you think you might have the flu then get diagnosed as soon as possible. If you are diagnosed within 48 hours of onset of the illness, then an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu is recommended by the CDC,” Dr. Pebbles says. “This will help to shorten the course and lessen the severity of the illness. Other measures such as taking fever reducers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen and drinking plenty of fluids will help.
It’s also important that you stay home. That’s right – home. Don’t go to work with symptoms; don’t let your kids go to school; don’t leave the house. Let your body rest, and do not spread the virus to others. After several days of medication and relaxation, you have a better chance of feeling better quicker.