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Why is the Flu So Bad This Year?

By Gregory T. Williams, MD
Chief of Infectious Diseases, Reliant Medical Group

There’s no doubt that this is the worst flu season America has experienced in over a decade. Hospitals in many states have been flooded with flu patients. And widespread flu activity has been reported in almost every American state, including Massachusetts. Unfortunately, the flu is not expected to abate any time soon.

This year’s flu has been particularly bad because the predominant strain is the H3N2 strain, which tends to be more severe and causes more health complications than others.  It is also more difficult to make an effective vaccine for this strain since it mutates at a faster rate than other flu viruses as it moves through the population.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Although the flu season is well underway, it still makes great sense to get a flu shot. There is very little risk in getting vaccinated, and it potentially could save your life, as well as protect those around you who may be at high risk of complications. (Getting vaccinated can also make your illness less severe than if you were not vaccinated.) Other effective means that help prevent the spread of the flu include:

  • Frequent hand-washing
  • Covering your mouth when you cough
  • Staying home if you are sick

It’s important to note that during an average flu season, approximately 12,000 Americans will die due to flu-related deaths. Unfortunately, this year’s total is expected to be much higher. These tragic deaths remind us that the flu is a very serious illness, and should not be taken lightly.

If you do get the flu, you should stay home so you will not spread it to others. If you feel very sick or believe you are at high risk of developing serious complications, you should see your doctor. Remember that young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with heart or lung disease have a particularly hard time with the flu. Flu medications, such as Tamiflu, can reduce the severity of the flu. Treatment should not be delayed once the flu is suspected, especially for those in high risk groups.  However, they are most effective if taken with 48 hours of the start of the illness. Up-to-date information on the flu is available at this CDC web page.

Why is the Flu So Bad This Year?

About Gregory Williams, MD, Chief of Infectious Disease

Ever since he was a child, Dr. Greg T. Williams knew he wanted to be a doctor. “It was just one of those things, I always knew I wanted to be in medicine. I think it was a combination of enjoying science and wanting to help others that led me to decide to become a doctor,” he explains.

Dr. Williams works in the Division of Infectious Disease at Reliant Medical Group, helping to diagnose and treat a wide range of viral, bacterial,...

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One Response

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  1. Posted by s. ferrante

    It def would have benefited you to be proactive and seek out the flu shot…merely request it! More and more we need to advocate for ourselves instead of leaving it up to others.

    March 2, 2018 9:51 pm Reply
  2. Posted by JP

    This is a good article, however, It’s very important that physicians take proper care when diagnosing the flu. I went in to see a nurse while I was in the early stages of the flu. No “real” testing was performed and the diagnosis was a simple cold. After 4 straight days and nights with a temperature and other flu symptoms, it became quite obvious to me that I had the flu. This was a serious error as I am the primary caregiver of a 93-year-old father who is in the hospital with pneumonia. He had a flu shot but I haven’t as it wasn’t offered to me this year for some reason.

    February 27, 2018 5:58 pm Reply

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