WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- If you know someone who's been hit with the flu this year, you know it's been bad, putting folks down for the count and in bed for days.
And, no, you're not imagining that more people than ever seem ill. According to Debra Spicehandler, M.D., Co-Chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, flu season is beginning to peak. New York State has declared an increased number of flu cases over the last several weeks.
The good news, however, is that the strain appears to be covered by this year's flu vaccine. And, it's not too late to get the preventive measure. That's the main message of Marvin Lipman, M.D., an internal medicine physician with Scarsdale Medical Group in Harrison. He said the current flu virus is the one that was expected and the current vaccine is about 60 percent effective compared to only 23 percent last year.
Both doctors say if you've been vaccinated, and get the flu, it is usually much milder.
If you develop flu like symptoms, both advise seeing your health care provider quickly so you can be started on antiviral medication. "If you have been in close contact with someone who had the flu you can start prophylactic antiviral treatment," said Dr. Spicehandler. "In addition, good hand washing with soap and water or use of antimicrobial gel can also help prevent the spread of the flu."
If you do experience flu symptoms, stay home and try to avoid contact with other people, said Dr. Lipman. "Get lots of rest and take acetaminophen to help with muscle aches and an over-the-counter decongestant," he said. "The flu can last anywhere from five to ten days."
The best news? It should be over by the end of April.
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