A White Plains Hospital physician says doctors are predicting a “severe” flu season.
“Last year’s flu season was fairly significant, and this year, we’re expecting to see about the same level of activity,” says Erik Larsen, MD, Associate Director of the Emergency Department at White Plains Hospital. Dr. Larsen indicated that experts anticipate overall high levels of outpatient illness and influenza-associated hospitalization.
Dr. Larsen recommends that everyone get a flu shot with the exception of babies under 6 months of age.
Although last year’s influenza vaccine was widely reported to “miss the mark” and didn’t offer protection from the predominant virus strains, Dr. Larsen says flu shots are always beneficial. “The vaccine alerts the body to recognize [a flu virus]. Even if you don’t hit it exactly, it is close enough,” he explains. “While we realize that the flu vaccine might not always be completely effective, it is still the most effective tool in our arsenal to prevent influenza and influenza- related secondary illnesses.”
If you get the flu, an antiviral agent, like Oseltamivir (commercially known as Tamifluâ), “can help shorten the duration of symptoms, and can make the illness more bearable.” However, an antiviral agent must be taken within first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms.
“Go to the emergency room if you’re not getting better, you’re getting worse, you are short of breath, elderly, or have a serious health condition such as cancer or diabetes,” Dr. Larsen says. “Flu can be a life-threatening illness and results in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year. Never hesitate to seek medical help if you think you need it.”