Health workers say flu virus is spreading quickly
It's been an early outbreak for the influenza virus and doctors are saying a possible new strain of the flu is circulating.
State health workers have now reported four additional deaths in the state from flu-related complications. This leaves many wondering why this flu season is so severe.
There hasn't been a flu outbreak this early for ten years. Doctors said the flu season peaks in mid-February, but the virus has been spreading quickly.
With a seemingly harmless sneeze, the flu virus can spread 20 feet in just seconds. Doctors said you're infectious for a full day before you show any symptoms.
"In most people, it's a mild to moderate illness and it doesn't cause death, but it can," said Mike Taylor, surveillance epidemiologist for the Eastern Idaho Public Health District.
"We have seen some deaths around the state and it is out there, so we recommend people take precautions."
The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare is reporting that four more people have died with flu-related conditions, bringing this season's total to 7. They said an average of 12 deaths occur every flu season, but in 2011, there were only 5.
"It is a serious illness and we need to take it as such," said Taylor. "So you should prevent the illness by getting a vaccine, washing your hands frequently, staying home if you're sick and staying away from sick people."
With possible new strains of the flu virus, medical professionals make sure to sample and update vaccines to accommodate.
"So far this year, it's matched very nicely. There are a few different types of strains that have been circulating in the community, so we're keeping a close eye on those, but we still recommend you get your vaccine," said Taylor.
If you still haven't gotten your flu shot, doctors and nurses said the sooner the better.
In most cases, the anti-bodies in the vaccine take up to two weeks to start working but once you get the flu shot, you have full coverage for the entire flu season.
If shots make you nervous, ask your doctor about other alternatives, such as the nasal mist.
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