The flu season kicks off Oct/Nov, peaks between Dec-Feb, but can last as long as May. The flu virus is spread by respiratory droplets via coughing or sneezing. It can take 1-4 days after exposure to show signs of illness. You can actually start spreading the virus 24-48 hours before the onset of symptoms and remain contagious for a total of 7-10 days if otherwise healthy. (Children and people with chronic conditions can shed the virus longer.) The flu is wide spread across the nation currently and you may be wondering why even bother getting the flu shot. The strain of flu right now is influenza A (H3N2) and due to its ability to mutate, it is difficult to vaccinate against with previous attempts only being 30% effective. (Of note, H3N2 Iis included in this year’s flu vaccine.) However, per the CDC, while you still may contract the flu with the vaccine, it is likely that the illness will not be as severe. You will also have protection against Influenza B, a different strain, typically seen towards the end of the season. If you feel like you have the flu, stay home, stay hydrated and rest, as most cases will resolve in 3-7 days. Call your doctor in the first 48 hours of onset as there are medications that can help shorten the duration and severity. And, of course, always listen to your body. If you feel like you are not improving or are having more severe symptoms than expected for influenza, make sure you are seen by a health care provider.
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