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Why It’s Important to Avoid the Flu

Every year, you’re bombarded with information about flu season, where to get flu shots and how to stay flu-free until the spring. After a while, it may start to seem like all this flu frenzy is just exaggerated. 

We’re here to show you why it’s not: Ahead, we’ll find out why it’s important to avoid the flu, no matter your age or health. 

When Is the 2018-2019 Flu Season?

Before we start talking about why you should protect yourself from the flu, let’s get a quick preview of when the 2018-2019 flu season is expected to pick up. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season typically peaks between December and March, with February being the most active month by far. Keep in mind, though, that flu activity can start as early as October and last until as late as May. 

Peak months of flu season, per the U.S. CDC

Image: Peak Month of Flu Activity 1982-1983 through 2017-2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Although flu activity is currently minor, the CDC predicts that it will pick up in coming weeks. In fact, we can already see the signs of increasing flu activity: in the week ending Nov. 17, 2018, Georgia, Oklahoma and Louisiana are seeing “Moderate” activity and all other states are seeing "Low" to "Minimal" activity.

2018-2019 flu season chart

Image: 2018-19 Influenza Season Week 46 ending Nov. 17, 2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In the seven states that GoHealth Urgent Care is located, the CDC is observing these trends (“local” activity is higher than “sporadic” activity):

  • Washington: Sporadic flu activity
  • Oregon: Local flu activity
  • California: Sporadic flu activity
  • Oklahoma: Sporadic flu activity
  • Missouri: Sporadic flu activity
  • Connecticut: Local flu activity
  • New York: Sporadic flu activity

2018-2019 flu season: flu activity estimates from the U.S. CDC

Image: Weekly Influenza Activity Estimates Reported by State and Territorial Epidemiologists, Week Ending Nov. 3, 2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

With flu activity poised to ramp up, it’s time to start thinking about protecting you and your family from infection. 

Why Should I Avoid the Flu?

Many people view the flu as nothing more than an inconvenience. While it certainly can throw a wrench in your plans, it can be much more than temporary disruption. 

Complications from the flu can affect anyone, although children under the age five and adults over the age of 65 are particularly vulnerable. 

Possible complications include:

  • Sinus and ear infections
  • Dehydration
  • Pneumonia, an infection of the lungs
  • Inflammation of the heart, brain or muscle tissues
  • Sepsis, an extreme (and possibly life-threatening) reaction to infection
  • Organ failure

People with certain medical conditions have a higher risk of developing serious complications. For example, the American Heart Association states that the flu can worsen chronic heart problems. Those with asthma are also more likely to develop more severe asthma attacks, as well as pneumonia and other acute respiratory diseases, according to the CDC

Unfortunately, these complications can’t always be successfully treated. The CDC stated that: 

During the 2017-2018 season, the percentage of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was at or above the epidemic threshold for 16 consecutive weeks.

It’s also important to remember that there’s no region of the U.S. that’s safe from the flu. For example, during the 2017-2018 flu season, CDC monitoring revealed that Mississippi and Louisiana were the first states to report “high” activity levels in the week ending Nov. 19, 2017. 

By the week ending Dec. 23, 2017, large swaths of the South, Midwest and West Coast were experiencing high activity, followed shortly thereafter by the East Coast as well as several northern states. From New York to California, the flu was everywhere. 

To illustrate this, let’s take a look at the CDC’s flu activity map from the week ending Feb. 3, 2018: 

Chart of the 2017-2018 flu season via the U.S. CDC

Image: 2017-18 Influenza Season Week 5 ending Feb 03, 2018, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

What Can I Do to Prevent the Flu?

To get a more in-depth sense of everything you can do to prevent the flu, check out our Health Library articles, “Prevention Checklist: How to Avoid a Brutal Flu Season Like Last Year” and “Everything You Need to Know to Prepare for the 2018-2019 Flu Season.”

Here’s a quick summary of the most effective prevention methods: 

To get a flu shot, stop by your local GoHealth Urgent Care center. With locations in seven regions across the country, we’re here for you whenever and wherever you need us. You can also check-in online below:

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