With an Early Start, Flu Season Coming On Stronger

U.S. health officials say this flu season started earlier and is gaining strength, prompting more Americans to get their flu shots.

South Floridians too are on the lookout for certain symptoms that sets the flu apart from a typical cold.

The proportion of people seeing their doctor for flu-like symptoms jumped to 5.6 percent from 2.8 percent in the past month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Baptist Health hospitals and urgent care centers are seeing a similar increase in patients seeking treatment for the flu, says John Braden, M.D., medical director of Baptist Health’s Emergency Preparedness department.

The “flu,” which appears more frequently in winter and early spring, refers to influenza. It is a contagious illness that attacks the respiratory system and is caused by the influenza A or B viruses.

The flu virus can spread through the upper and/or lower respiratory tracts, affecting the nose, throat and lungs.

How do you tell the difference between the common cold and the flu?

A “cold” can make you feel an overall malaise, with congestion, sore throat and a runny nose.

But the flu can bring on these more severe symptoms:

•  High fever, sometimes for days (but not everyone with the flu has a fever)
•  Headache
•  Body aches
•  Chills
•  General fatigue or weakness
•  Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children)

If diagnosed early, the flu can be effectively treated with an antiviral medication. A severe case of the flu can lead to life-threatening pneumonia.

Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu, including older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions, such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. All members of the family, over six months of age, can get the flu vaccine each year.

“A flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, and this year’s vaccine is a good match for preventing the strains we’re seeing” Dr. Braden said.

If you feel you may have come down with the flu, visit a Baptist Health urgent care center.


Healthcare that Cares

With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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