If you’ve seen the news recently, you likely know we are in flu season.
When we humans are corralled together more than normal, the flu virus, generally speaking, gets a bump.
This phenomenon is emblematic in the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Up until this point in the calendar year, a seasonal curve tracking the flu season looks the same, said Dr. Mark Gendreau, Chief Medical Officer at Beverly and Addison Gilbert Hospitals
“You always get a bump around Thanksgiving and then between Christmas and New Year’s,” he said. “People are getting together, having more close contact with each other.”
There’s also the weather to blame. This is right around the time changes in the humidity start happening.
“Viruses thrive in lower humidity,” Gendreau said. “Regardless of severity of the year, the flu is always predictable in the early stages.”
From now until the rest of the flu season — possibly March or April — the virus will be unpredictable.
“In early January, it becomes predictably unpredictable,” Dr. Gendreau said of the typical flu season.
Last year was a particularly rough flu season. In a typical year, there are anywhere from 18,000 to 50,000 flu-related deaths. But in 2017 there were about 80,000 deaths caused by the flu.
This season more people have gotten vaccinated as compared to last year, Dr. Gendreau explained.
And while the vaccine is never perfect, it can stave off the worst symptoms caused by the virus.
To keep yourself healthy this season, become a hand washing zealot and stay hydrated. The flu virus particle can survive on a surface for a couple hours.
If you touch an infected surface, then touch your face, as humans do about 200 times a day, you could get sick. The virus can also transmit through the air so watch those coughs and sneezes if you are around other people — say, in an office?
For more information on the flu and how you can get vaccinated, speak with your Lahey Health provider.