Flu Season Rages On, But There Are Ways to Protect Yourself

Jan 6, 2015

The flu season is reaching its peak and many have been feeling the effects.

That’s according to Dr. David Nace, director of long-term care and flu programs for the Division of Geriatric Medicine at UPMC and medical director at the University of Pittsburgh Institute on Aging.

Nace says the flu has been widespread this season, but not as virulent.
“We’re certainly seeing a lot more overall activity than we did last year, in terms of numbers of hospitalizations," he said. "What’s interesting though is last year we saw a lot more critical illness.”

Nace says the H3 strain that’s circulating this year usually gives them a lot of trouble, but they’re not seeing the critical illness they expected, except in one segment of the population.  

“In Pennsylvania there were 36 confirmed deaths through the end of the year, of those 32 were of individuals 65 and older,” Nace said. “So it’s certainly acting like the typical seasonal flu which affects the older adult population in particular. We’re seeing a number of outbreaks in nursing homes right now.”

Nace said people can take a number of steps to prevent the flu or keep from spreading it to others. Despite much-reported information that this year’s flu vaccine is an imperfect match for the most common strain of influenza, Nace said the shot is still worth getting.

“It is protecting against the B strains that are out there. It is protecting against the H1 strain,” said Nace. “There are still some of the strains out there that it may be protecting against fully. The strain that is mismatched is the Switzerland strain, what we know is that a flu shot usually provides some protection even against mismatched strains.”

Other recommendations include: staying home from work if respiratory symptoms appear, avoiding those who are sick, covering coughs, throwing away tissues, avoid touching the face and frequent hand washing.