“It’s never too late to get the flu vaccine,” said Dr. Claire Magauran, an infectious disease specialist at Baystate Medical Center, who reminded those who haven’t gotten the vaccine yet that it can take upward to two weeks for antibodies to become effective.
That’s good advice given the fact that federal health officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have added Massachusetts to the list of states where the flu is now widespread.
“This is the time of year when we normally see most cases of the flu beginning, often continuing through March. We are definitely seeing more cases of the flu in the hospital and in our outpatient settings right now,” said Dr. Magauran.
State health officials are also reporting cases of swine flu, now known as H1 N1, however, this year’s flu vaccine defends against the virus.
Dr. Magauran said flu symptoms, including H1 N1, can vary in severity, including all or some of the following: fever, chills, sore throat, runny nose, cough, fatigue, headache, and even vomiting and diarrhea, the latter which are more common in children.
The best way to treat the flu?
“Get plenty of rest and stay hydrated,” said Dr. Magauran.
Over-the-counter medications can relieve some flu symptoms, and doctors may also prescribe antiviral medications if the flu is caught very early on in diagnosis
Most people with the flu will not need to see their doctor, however, those at high risk for complications – such as those with chronic health problems like asthma, diabetes, heart disease and others, as well as those who are pregnant – should contact their physician, noted Dr. Magauran.
Cases of flu are approaching 900 in the state as of the New Year, with no deaths yet reported. Last year some 7,000 cases of flu were confirmed.