CDC: Early Start to Flu Season
Flu season in the United States is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade and it could be a bad one. The last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths. Experts say the dominant type of flu back then is the same one we'll see this year.
Brad Leonard is just getting over the flu and is trying to make sure his son and newborn daughter don't get it because it's already been passed around his extended family.
"I think we've got seven people who've had it so far," he said.
Brad is one of the unlucky ones who caught the virus early in one of the earliest influenza seasons in almost 10 years.
"It's definitely not fun," he said. "The only positive, it's a great way to start a diet. I lost about 10-11 pounds in 48 hours."
Right now, influenza levels are increasing across the country, including here in Illinois.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than a third of Americans have been vaccinated, and the vaccine formulated for this year is well-matched to the strains of the virus seen so far.
"Some folks feel like the flu vaccine will give them the flu, which is not true," Illinois Department of Public Health director Lamar Hasbrouck said. "That's probably the biggest myth."
He adds there's still plenty of time to get the vaccination. Flu activity doesn't usually peak until February in the U.S. and can last as late as May.
"I think it's important for folks not to minimize the severity of the flu," Hasbrouck said. "Every year, up to 46,000 deaths are from the flu."
These groups are at the highest risk:
- pregnant women
- children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- people 65 years of age and older
- people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease
The flu vaccine typically costs between $20-$30, but may be covered by insurance. If you don't think you can afford the vaccine for yourself or your family, check with you local health department. They may have options or programs to help you out.