Flu Epidemic: What You Need to Know

Major cities across the United States have declared a health emergency in the wake of the worst flu outbreak in a decade. The Doctors investigate to bring you the information you need to protect you and your family.

“The U.S. is in a full-fledged flu epidemic unlike anything we’ve seen in the last 10 years,” E.R. physician Dr. Travis Stork says.

Dr. Travis gives a state-by-state rundown of severely affected areas. 

The Flu Shot
Not sure whether to get the flu shot or not? Get the facts about the vaccination so you can make an informed decision.

“Get your shot! It’s not too late,” Dr. Travis says.

• Find available flu shots in your area! Visit flu.gov.

Straight from the CDC
Director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Thomas Frieden, joins Dr. Travis via satellite to discuss why this year’s flu season occurred earlier and is more widespread than previous years.

Overcrowded Hospitals

Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears visits an overcrowded hospital in Allentown, Pa. See how doctors there are managing the overwhelming influx of patients.

Why a Chicago ER had to turn people away.

“We’re about a month ahead of the usual schedule of the flu, but it’s important to remember the flu is a bad disease, and most flu seasons are associated with thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths,” Dr. Frieden says.

Dr. Friedan explains that this year’s main strain of flu is H3N2, and the last time the U.S. had an H3N2 season was in 2003-2004, which, like this year, saw an increased number of hospitalizations and fatalities.

The most effective way of protecting yourself from the flu is with the flu shot, which is said to be approximately 62 percent effective this year; however, people have many misconceptions about the vaccine. Dr. Frieden says while the flu shot is far from perfect, it’s by far the best defense we have against the virus.

How do you know if you’ve come down with the flu?

“It usually comes on pretty suddenly,” Dr. Friedan says.

Symptoms include coughing, body aches and sometimes a fever, and Dr. Frieden advises that if you experience these symptoms, be sure to stay home from work or school so you don’t infect others, as well as drink plenty of fluids and get lots of rest. If you have an underlying health condition such as diabetes or cancer, it’s important to contact your health care provider within 24 hours to prevent a higher severity of illness.

What To Do if You Get the Flu
• Act quickly! Anti-viral drugs prescribed by your doctor can reduce flu time if taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms.

• Reduce fever and chills with over-the-counter medicines such as acetaminophen.
• Get plenty of asleep, which will allow your immune system to do its job.
• Stay hydrated! Try hot tea with honey or chicken soup. Gargle with salt water to ease a sore throat.
• Stay home! Going to work or school will only infect others.

Winter symptoms: Whether it’s asthma or sleep apnea, ear, nose and throat specialist Dr. Andrew Ordon shares tips so your everyday ailments don’t worsen in the winter.
Flu-fighting foods.

Sandy Sickness
The aftermath of Superstorm Sandy has lead to widespread symptoms in the residents of the eastern U.S. People are reporting coughing, wheezing, mysterious rashes and diarrhea, which some experts are calling “Sandy Sickness.”

More Illness Info: 
If it's not the flu, what is it?
Diarrhea-be-gone popsicle.
Flu vs. food poisoning.

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