The flu and you: what you need to know



It has been a century since the flu virus was at its worst, and in the transition from 2017 to 2018, exactly one hundred years later, the virus is making a strong comeback. Health officials believe that this outbreak is the worst it has been for several years.

Last month, parents received an email about the uptick in flu cases affecting Gloucester schools, detailing prevention and treatment.

The type of flu that is spreading is called influenza A, (H3N2), known to be more severe than others. More deaths than average were caused in 2003-2013 whenever H3N2 made an appearance.

Since November of 2017, the illness has been spreading violently throughout the country.

High rates have been seen in the Massachusetts area, especially Cape Ann. Four times the number of people from last year have been affected this year in Massachusetts.

There are no exact statistics on the matter, because there are many people who may not be tested for the flu and have it. At GHS, some students have reported having the flu after recovery. Not many instances have been reported in GHS, but many have been reported in Gloucester overall.

“I’m only hearing afterwards which is good,” said GHS nurse practitioner Linda Gipstein.  “We don’t want people who have the flu coming to school.”

The flue is mostly spread through coughing and sneezing. According to the Centers for Disease and Control, symptoms include fever or feverish chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, tiredness, vomiting and diarrhea.

Most people will only have the flu for a few days, but for some, it branches off into another sickness like pneumonia. This can cause serious complications, sometimes resulting in death. Individuals most at risk for flu related complications include senior citizens, young children, pregnant women, and people who have medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma, or diabetes.

Flu is diagnosed by your healthcare provider, which is made by examining symptoms, and a physical exam or flu test.

The number of people getting flu shots this season is increasing, according to local hospitals.

There are two types of flu vaccines. These include getting a shot, or nasal swabs. When you get a flu vaccine, you are not 100% cured, and there are common side effects, but this may cause less severe cases.

The most common ways to prevent the flu are by getting a flu vaccine, staying clean by washing your hands, and avoiding close contact with sick people. If you feel sick, it is best to stay home and rest, and not risk it getting worse.

“If you have a strong immune system you won’t get sick,” said Gipstein. “To have a strong immune system, you need to have enough sleep, good nutrition, to manage stress, exercise, and stay hydrated.”

Some people also take antiviral medication, which can lesson symptoms by one or two days.

If you are in fear of acquiring the flu, these specific methods used to prevent it can help you stay healthy.