The Flu Packs a Punch
Why this season is so bad and how you can stay healthy
Chances are that you or someone you know has been affected by the flu. The current flu season has been worse than in past years, with a lot of people getting sick much earlier than normal.
In early January, Boston was hit with a flu outbreak so bad that the city declared a public health emergency. But other states — especially in the northeast and south — were hit hard, too.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there were 22,048 reported cases of the flu from September 30, 2012, through December 31. In 2011, there were only 849 cases over the same time, the CDC reported.
So why is this flu season so bad? It has to do with what type of flu is spreading across the country.
There are numerous strains of the flu. You may have heard about H1N1, or the "swine flu." This year, "we're seeing a lot of H3N2, which you see in the past tends to affect young kids and the elderly more," CDC spokesman Tom Skinner told ABC News.
Dr. Jonathan Hunter, Louisiana's Family Physician of the Year, told the Kids Press Corps that the flu tends to hit the very young and elderly hard because they don't have a strong enough immune system to fight off the flu. The elderly may also be more greatly affected because they may already be fighting other ailments. So this makes fighting the flu much harder for them than it would be for a healthy person.
But the bad thing about the flu is that those kinds of flu can affect everyone.It becomes dangerous for all of us. This means taking some steps to prevent spreading and getting the flu are really important.
The simplest thing you an do is wash your hands frequently. This helps stop the spread of germs. But it won't completely prevent you from getting the flu.
The flu gets in the air from people sneezing and coughing. So one of the best things you can do to prevent the flu is to stay away from those who are sick.
This isn't always possible, especially in an area where the flu is widespread. In these cases, doctors recommend getting a flu shot. The flu shot helps build your defense against the flu virus. It's not a guarantee that you won't get the flu, but it helps your body fight the flu if you do get it.
How do you know if you have the flu?The biggest symptoms are all-over body aches and a cough.Patients may also complain of fever, sneezing, and watery eyes. The thing that makes the flu different from a cold is that the flu comes on very quickly, lasts longer, and the symptoms are much worse. You may wake up feeling fine and be sick in bed by that evening.
While doctors and medical professionals recommend getting a flu shot, it's always important to talk to an adult first to find out if a flu shot is right for you.
The CDC says peak flu season normally hits in January or February. The organization adds it can't predict when this season will peak, "but based on past experience, it's likely that flu activity will continue for some time," according to the CDC website.
Only a doctor can tell if you have the flu. So if you think you might be sick let your parents or teachers know. They'll make sure you get a professional diagnosis and get on the road to getting better!
You can find more facts about this year's flu season the CDC's website.
NEWS FOR KIDS, BY KIDS
Get the latest on national and international events, movies, television, music, sports, and more from the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.