The number of Influenza (flu) cases this year so far are headed to the highest levels in decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). By mid-November, there were 4.4 million illnesses, 38,000 hospitalizations and 2,100 deaths from the flu reported. Many of these illnesses could have been prevented by getting immunized with the vaccine and taking some common-sense precautions.

COVID vs. Flu Symptoms

While the symptoms are very similar, they are some signs that indicate the flu:

Influenza comes on very suddenly, instead of gradually like COVID.

A mild (as opposed to persistent) dry cough, most often with no shortness of breath

There is most always a fever associated with the flu.

There is no loss of taste or smell.

In any case, you should see your physician for confirmation of a diagnosis.

Who’s at Risk for the Flu?

Those over 65

Patients with chronic medical conditions

Pregnant women

Young children, especially 2 and other (Overcrowded children’s hospitals and pediatric units report, this year, a 10% increase in flu patients under 5 years, with the next largest group being 5 to 24.)

Busting the Biggest Myth

You CANNOT catch the flu from the injected vaccine. It is not made up of a live virus, so it cannot transmit infection. You might catch the flu in the doctor’s waiting room or elsewhere within the week or two that it takes for the vaccine to start working. Also, it’s advised not to take the vaccine if you’re not feeling well, as the it might worsen some symptoms that you’re already experiencing.

What’s that you say? You’re tired of getting vaccines? Well… Studies from 2017 and 2021 showed that the flu vaccination reduced the number of admissions to Intensive Care Units and the number of deaths among adults who got the vaccine and still contracted the flu.

The 2022-2023 vaccines were designed to protect against two influenza type A viruses and two influenza B viruses. The good news: This year’s flu vaccine seems to be a good match to flu strains that have been found in patients so far this year.

Depending on age, you have more options than you probably know of for which flu vaccine to take.

Types of Vaccines:

Standard Dose Shot- Including the brandsAfluria Quadrivalent ,Fluarix Quadrivalent, FluLaval Quadrivalent, and Fluzone Quadrivalent (all can be given to children, as well, 6 month and older)

Standard Dose- Flucelvax Quadrivalent – is an egg-free vaccine, containing virus grown in cell culture, which is approved for people 6 months and older.  Other brands include Afluria Quadrivalent, Fluarix Quadrivalent, FluLaval Quadrivalent, and Fluzone Quadrivalent

Flublok Quadrivalent(New) is another egg-free flu shot that is made without flu viruses and is approved for use in people 18 years and older. It contains three times the antigens than other standard-dose inactivated flu vaccines, to help create a stronger immune response.

Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent(New) is approved for use in people 65 years and older. This vaccine contains four times the antigens.

Fluad Quadrivalent(New) is approved for people 65 years and older. This vaccine also helps create a stronger immune response.

FluMist Quadrivalent– is an egg-based nasal mist vaccine made with weakened live flu viruses, which is approved for use in people 2 to 49 years. It is not recommended for those pregnant, immunocompromised or with certain medical conditions.

While vaccines are not 100% preventative, they are VERY effective at keeping patients out of the hospital and the intensive care unit. They are usually effective for six to eight months, with protection decreasing on the back end of that timeframe. Note: You can get the flu and COVID vaccines at the same time, according to the CDC.

Who Can Get the Vaccine?

It is recommended that anyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine.

Effective Ways to Prevent the Spread of the Flu:

WASH YOUR HANDS with soap (or antibacterial soap) immediatelyafter getting home –    

   or pumping gas and using a public restroom.

-Keep hands off of your eyes, nose and mouth – the portals for germs.

-Sneeze onto a (clean) tissue or the inside of your elbow.

-Put your hand in front of your mouth when you cough.

Other Treatment Options

Antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu®, are prescription medicines that can make flu symptoms milder and shorten the time you are sick. They might also prevent serious complications like pneumonia. The thing to remember is: They work best when they are started within two days of getting sick. After that, they can still be helpful for flu patients in the hospital, but not as much as when they are started at the onset of sickness.

Eat, Drink & Be Healthy

Lastly, to guard against the flu, eat a diet of protein, fruits and vegetables; drink plenty of water; get six or more hours of sleep; and take your vitamins (C, D3, B12 and zinc.)