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Flu Hits Early and Hits Hard Nationwide

fluSPRINGFIELD, Mass (WGGB) — It may be the worst flu season in years. It’s hitting early and hard this year.  The east coast and the southeast have been hit the hardest and we haven’t even hit the peak flu months of February and March.

ABC40’s Dave Madsen had a chance to talk with abc’s Dr Richard Besser about the increase in the number of cases this season. Here’s a transcript of their conversation.

MADSEN:  “Why are we seeing such an increase of cases of the flu this year, as opposed to previous years?”

BESSER:  “There’s a few theories out there. One has to do with it being a newer strain. Another has something to do with vaccination and how many people have gotten vaccinated.  But one of the more interesting theories has to do with the humidity. What scientists are finding is the lower the absolute humidity, the earlier the flu season comes. That low humidity allows the virus to survive longer and it may even allow it to hang in the air longer.

MADSEN:  “One of the things we’re seeing around here is the emergency rooms, especially at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield are being flooded with people who are going to the ER with flu.”

BESSER:  “You don’t want to go to the ER with the flu if you just have run of the mill symptoms.  Just achy, coughing and a fever, get in bed, rest up, get plenty of fluids and take something for your fever. If you have underlying medical problems, asthma, heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, you want to call your doctor. They may just even call in a prescription of an anti-viral for you. If you’re developing any difficulty breathing, it could indicate pneumonia, you want to go in and be seen right away.”

MADSEN: “When flu vaccine is being developed,  is it kind of a guessing game as to exactly what the strains are going to be?”

BESSER: “Yea, it really is. There’s meetings at the WHO in Geneva every year to try and figure it out. They look at what strains of flu have circulated in the Southern Hemisphere because those are the strains that will most likely come our way. Some years they hit it right on target,  some years they totally miss it. This year it’s a great match.  There’s 3 strains of flu in the vaccine. The one strain of A  represents greater than 90%  of the A strains that we’re seeing in the community. The strain of B represents about 60% of the B strains in the community. We won’t know though for about a month, how well the vaccine works.”

So what’s your best defense against getting the flu? Dr Besser says if you haven’t already, get a flu shot.  Next, wash your hands frequently and use a hand sanitizer.  If you have the flu, cover your coughs and sneezes with your arm.  Stay home from work, and if it’s your child, keep them home from school.

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