The influenza season has officially begun, and public health officials are expressing concern about the next winter due to the increased number of influenza cases. According to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, who spoke with NBC News, “We’ve seen that flu activity is starting to grow over much of the country,”, especially in the Southeast and south-central parts of the United States. “Last year, many people who did not get vaccinated against the flu did not end up becoming sick with influenza. As a result, we are in an ideal position to experience a possibly severe influenza season.”
Other industry professionals think that this coming winter could be very harsh and are concerned about the impact it could have on hospitals. In this episode of Eat This, Not That!, Bernadette Boden-Albala, MPH, DrPH, Director and Founding Dean of the Public Health Program at the University of California, Irvine, shares some tips with us. The word on health is, “According to the CDC FluView report for the 2022-2023 flu season, there are indications that we are getting an early start to the flu season. This is based on the fact that the study was released earlier this year. Vaccination against both the influenza virus and the SARS-CoV-2 virus is required because both are currently circulating at the same time. This is necessary to protect against the simultaneous overloading of health care systems and the threat to the health and safety of the general population.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “estimates that flu has resulted in 9 million – 41 million illnesses, 140,000 – 710,000 hospitalizations, and 12,000 – 52,000 fatalities annually between 2010 and 2020,” and professionals are getting ready for the worst this year. Dr. Ehsan Ali, who is fellowship-trained in geriatric medicine, is board-certified in internal medicine, and he is the founder and CEO of Beverly Hills Concierge Doctor and Urgent Care. In this episode of Eat This, Not That!, he discusses the importance of eating a diet rich in antioxidants. Health, “Because people were required to wear masks a year ago, the number of people diagnosed with the flu was significantly lower. There will be a greater number of cases of influenza this year as the vast majority of individuals will not be protecting themselves by using masks. On the other hand, there is no reason to believe that it will become any more severe.” Continue reading, and make sure you don’t miss any of these sure signs that you’ve already had COVID to protect not only your health but also the health of others.
Family medicine specialist Dr. Barbara Bawer, who works at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, has the following to say: “There is a good chance that this year’s flu season may be more severe than in years past. As a result of the pandemic, mask laws, and general improvements in hand and cough cleanliness among the general population, we have not seen as many cases of the flu during the past couple of years. As a direct consequence of this, a significant number of individuals made the decision not to get vaccinated against influenza throughout the preceding few seasons. As a result, there is a significantly lower population’s immunity to the virus, which is expected to result in a flu season that is more severe this year.”
In addition, family medicine physician David Cutler, MD, who practices at the Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, says, “Certain presumptions serve as the foundation for making forecasts regarding the impending flu season. These assumptions include the types of influenza virus strains that will be circulating, how contagious and severe each of those strains will be, how people will behave in terms of traveling and wearing masks, how many people will get vaccinated or receive treatment, and how accurately flu disease data will be collected. It is reasonable that there is a large deal of doubt regarding the severity of the approaching flu season because there is a significant amount of uncertainty associated with each of these specific elements.”
Dr. Boden-Albala says, “There has been a decrease in the number of people getting vaccinated against the flu throughout the past two flu seasons, particularly among higher-risk categories such as children and pregnant people. It is common for flu activity to rise initially in younger age groups, and subsequently to spread to those in older age groups. These patterns point to a potentially more severe influenza season in comparison to those seen in prior years.”
Dr. Cutler explains, “In general, the strains that are affecting the Southern Hemisphere in the months before their appearance in the Northern Hemisphere are the ones that are expected to afflict the United States (their winter, our summer). These are also the strains that are guarded against by the influenza vaccinations that are now available. The nine influenza vaccinations that have been approved by the FDA all protect against the same four flu strains. However, protection against sickness is by no means foolproof, and the types of the influenza virus that are circulating may change as the flu season continues.”
Dr. Boden-Albala would like to remind everyone that “If you have the flu, it is important that you take normal precautions to safeguard the people you care about and the community at large while you are ill. If you can, rest at home until you feel better; if you absolutely must go out, make sure to keep your mouth and nose covered when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap.”
According to Dr. Christopher Kang, who is a primary care physician at Health 1 Care and is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, “If you do become infected with the virus, it is in everyone’s best interest to maintain as little social interaction as possible to avoid spreading it to other people. Keep yourself at home, get some rest, and make sure to drink enough water. To reduce the symptoms, you can use over-the-counter fever-reducing drugs such as Tylenol, which can be found at most pharmacies. Get in touch with your healthcare practitioner if you belong to a higher-risk category, are feeling poorly, or are anxious about your condition in any way.”
Dr. Cutler tells us, “A severe case of the flu can be differentiated from a simple cold by the presence of body aches, a high fever, and shortness of breath. Breathing difficulties are the result of pneumonia, which occurs when the influenza virus infects the lungs. In some cases, death can occur as a result of the progression of pneumonia leading to decreased oxygen levels in the blood.
Remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Vaccinations and effective masking are great ways to prevent the flu and covid. Antiviral treatment is available by prescription for those at high risk with significant disease. However, remember that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Vaccinations and effective masking are great ways to prevent the flu and covid.”
According to Dr. Bawer, “You can protect yourself from the flu by being vaccinated. Wearing a mask in public and washing your hands can also help to prevent the flu. It is also vital to limit your risks of exposure by avoiding individuals who are sick.”
Dr. Kang continues by saying, “Protection from the flu begins with small everyday actions. One should avoid close contact with people who are sick, cover coughs and sneezes, wash one’s hands frequently with soap and water, and avoid touching one’s eyes, nose, and mouth. It is also always recommended to anyone above the age of 6 months to receive the annual flu vaccine for immune protection in case of contact with the virus.”