Tracking the Flu
By Sandy Kauten
Because it is a virus, there are no great treatments for the flu, and the best thing to do is to encourage people to get a flu shot. Still, the weekly report helps the medical community track the breadth and depth of an outbreak and plan accordingly. “If there’s an active outbreak that’s sending people to the doctor, that helps inform our scheduling,” says Dr. Stacy Chance, Oregon Medical Group’s Chief Medical Officer.
The best way to fend off the flu is to have your flu vaccine. And last year’s vaccine won’t help you at all. The flu virus mutates over time, making it important to get the vaccine that’s matched to the predictions of the next most likely versions the flu virus may take. This year’s flu is predicted to match four viruses circulating in the United States.
The onset of flu season is unpredictable and can vary by region. The “flu season” often begins as early as September and can continue until May but activity most commonly peaks between December and February. Since there’s still plenty of flu season ahead of us, even if you haven’t yet had your flu shot, it’s still likely to be worthwhile as the season intensifies. It is important that children receive the vaccine soon, particularly because some children may require two doses with at least 28 days in between.
Why does the flu correlate with winter? Though the flu virus appears throughout the year, it is more viable in cold and dry air. Add the increased time we spend indoors and the sharing the air, doorknobs, light switches and other germ-friendly zones, and you have a recipe for a surge in sickness.
Locally, the vaccine is ready in all Oregon Medical Group clinics as well as Lane County Public Health and many other medical clinics and pharmacies. For more information about the vaccine, contact your medical provider.