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Flu May Be Peaking in Some States, Just Starting in Others

SPRINGFIELD, Mass (ABC40/ABC) — 47 states report widespread outbreaks. Boston has declared a state of emergency. New York state has followed suit. ABC News Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser says the Centers for Disease Control says it may have peaked in the south, the area hit the earliest and hardest.

Monday, ABC40’s Dave Madsen spoke with Dr. Besser about the current state of the flu outbreak.

MADSEN: “We spofluke about a week ago, what’s your assessment of the flu outbreak in that time?”

BESSER: “I think that we’re starting to see some early signs in some areas it’s starting to come down a little bit. I’m not sure if you’re feeling that in Springfield yet. I think even in those areas where it’s starting to come down, we could see another six weeks or more of increased flu activity. But hopefully, it’s not going to be as aggressive as it currently is in Massachusetts.”

MADSEN: “If the flu hits one person in a house, but not everyone, there’s a pretty good chance people are going to get hit along the way. Is there anything you can do?”

BESSER: “If there are people in the household who are at risk for severe flu, people with medical conditions, you can talk to your doctor. Tamiflu can help prevent flu in someone who’s been exposed. That’s not recommended for everybody, but for some people, that’s the way to go. When that person is in your house and they’re sick, if you can confine them to one part of the house, so that they’re not spreading flu all over the place when they’re walking around. Give them a surgical mask to wear, that can help. Then you focus on washing your hands and trying not to touch your eyes, your nose and your mouth.”

MADSEN: “Now if you’ve already had one strain of the flu, is it possible to get either of the other two?”

BESSER: “Unfortunately you can get the flu many times in the same season. Once you get one strain you’re protected from that strain, but there are a couple of strains that are causing a lot of disease this season. One of them is an A strain, one a B strain, you can get them both.”

MADSEN: “Is there any way to get over the flu faster?”

BESSER: “Tamiflu, Relenza, the anti-virals can shorten your course of illness by about a half a day to one day, if started early. They can help prevent flu complications. Drink plenty of fluids, rest, don’t overdo it. Those things may help a little bit.”

MADSEN: “If you’re allergic to eggs, this is one concern, but still want the flu vaccine, is there anything you can do?”

BESSER: “You know it’s no longer an exact counter indication to getting the vaccine. If you’ve had a bad egg allergy, meaning you’ve had trouble with breathing, with wheezing, you need to go to an allergist’s office to get the flu vaccine. But most people do just fine, they just want to do that as a precaution so that they can give you a medicine if you have any kind of a reaction. But in that setting, you can get the flu vaccine too.”

MADSEN: “How about pregnant women, women who hadn’t gotten the flu shot before they’d gotten pregnant. Is it still safe for them to get that shot now that they are?”

BESSER: “It is. They can’t get the nasal spray, but they can get the shot. It’s a recommendation that they do get that shot for two reasons. One is that there at higher risk of getting pneumonia of getting severe flu. The other is getting that shot will allow you to provide your unborn baby with protection. The antibodies that your body makes will cross the placenta so that they will provide some protection in those first few months of life, which is an important thing.”

MADSEN: “Now I heard you this morning on GMA mention that there had been 135 million doses of the flu vaccine made, about 128 million distributed. Do you think, now given the rush of people to get those flu shots that there’s a chance we may run out?”

BESSER: “I think so. I think there’s a chance that all of the 135 million will be used this year, which will probably lead manufacturers to make more next year. They made this year about the same number they did last year and last year, they didn’t run out because it wasn’t such as bad flu year and so people weren’t rushing off to get the vaccine. The vaccine is recommended now for everyone over six months. Given there’s 350 million people in American, there’s a lot of people who aren’t getting the vaccine every year who probably should.”

MADSEN: “So once this flu vaccine is gone, it’s gone. You can’t do anything more for this year. Is that right?”

BESSER: “That’s pretty much it. Once it’s gone, I don’t think there’s time enough to ramp up and make more vaccine to be effective in this flu season.”

MADSEN: “Dr. Besser thanks. Let’s hope the next time we get together the flu is over and done with.”

“Yea, I know you’ve been slammed so I’m hoping for the best for Springfield.”



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