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Flu season could be bad this year, experts warn

People may be extending more than one cup of joy to family and friends at this month's holiday gatherings.

Early indications point to a bad flu season, and medical professionals advise people who are vaccinated against the annual flu to prevent the spread of the virus.

"It's always a concern before the holiday season," said Mary Anderson, infection control manager at Edward Hospital in Naperville.

"During the holidays, there are many opportunities for children to be with other children," Anderson said. And personal hygiene and concerns about the passage of germs are not necessarily a priority for the youngest.

Predicting influenza prognosis, Anderson said, is as difficult as predicting the weather.

One track comes from Australia, where the flu the season has just ended. Public health officials reported record influenza rates and above-average hospitalization and death rates.

Signs in the United States already point to a problem.

The latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 90 percent of the US states. UU They report some type of local, regional or generalized flu activity. Two states, Oklahoma and North Carolina, together recorded seven deaths of adults over 65 so far this season as a result of influenza.

"The flu is more serious than the common cold," Anderson said.

Commonly When patients with coughs sneeze, sneeze or talk, the virus can spread to others up to six feet away, according to the CDC. Although less often, people can get sick by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus.

This year's H3N2 virus is a cause for concern. "Those tensions hit harder among the very young and very old," Anderson said.

The most vulnerable to serious complications of influenza are older adults, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain long-term health conditions.

If everyone else is vaccinated, the likelihood of spreading the virus to populations at risk decreases, Anderson said.

"It's so important to get the flu shot to protect the people you love."

A study published in the Spring issue of Pediatrics shows that flu vaccination significantly reduces a child's risk of dying from the flu. flu

But not all vaccines are the same.

For the second year in a row, the American Pediatric Association and the CDC request that children be vaccinated against the flu instead of the nasal spray vaccine. This year's vaccines cover three strains or four strains.

"Recent studies show that the nasal spray is less effective, so the CDC recommends not using it," Anderson said.

Experts agree that even a vaccine of limited effectiveness will protect some people from getting the flu And many of those who do have a shorter course of disease, Anderson said.

On average, he said, flu without vaccination lasts between five and seven days.

Symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and possibly vomiting and diarrhea.

The flu vaccine is the first line of defense, but people can also prevent the spread of germs with a few simple preventive measures.

"Wash your hands often, cover your mouth when you cough and stay home when you are sick," Anderson said.

subaker @ tribpub.com

Twitter @ SBakerSun1

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