(StatePoint) December through March is typically peak influenza (flu) season, though this season is off to an earlier start, with high activity currently across the country. While common, flu is a potentially serious and highly contagious respiratory illness.
In time for holiday travel and festivities, a new American Lung Association campaign funded by CLS Seqirus aims to educate Americans about the flu and steps they can take to protect themselves and others from severe flu illness. Here’s what to know:
• Who is impacted by flu? Flu can affect anyone, however, certain communities are at higher risk of severe illness and complications, such as those living with chronic medical conditions including chronic lung disease, heart disease and diabetes. During past flu seasons, approximately 90% of flu-related hospitalizations were among adults with at least one underlying medical condition. During the 2021-22 flu season, approximately 30% of hospitalizations were among adults with chronic lung disease. People from certain racial and ethnic minority groups are also at higher risk for being hospitalized with flu compared to non-Hispanic white adults.
• What will this year’s flu season look like? Flu activity was relatively low the last two flu seasons, but it causes a significant burden every winter. Seasonal influenza activity is already elevated and continues to increase across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as of early December, there have been at least 8.7 million illnesses and 78,000 hospitalizations.
• How can I protect myself? While covering your cough, washing your hands frequently and staying home when you’re sick can help stop the spread of flu, the very best way to protect yourself, your loved ones, and your community is with vaccination. The flu shot is recommended on an annual basis for everyone 6 months of age and older and can be given at the same time as COVID-19 vaccination. Flu vaccination is especially important for people with chronic lung disease and other chronic health conditions. Speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about influenza and annual vaccination.
• When should I see a doctor? If you do get sick, call your doctor as soon as possible for diagnosis and treatment — especially if you’re at high risk for complications. You should also consult your doctor if you have complications such as difficulty breathing, chest pains or a cough persisting for weeks or months after other symptoms go away.
To learn more, visit Lung.org/prevent-flu.
Before you gather with loved ones for the holidays, take steps to protect them from flu. Practice good health habits and get your annual vaccination as early as possible.