By LARA HAMDAN
The St. Louis County Department of Public Health reports 1,282 cases of influenza in the first week of January. The illness is also causing a low blood supply at local hospitals.
On Monday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh discussed why the flu is so prevalent in St. Louis. Joining him for the discussion was Ken Haller, SLUCare pediatrician at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital and professor at Saint Louis University.
Haller addressed how to navigate the flu including the symptoms, treatment and prevention, period of contagion and effectiveness of the flu vaccine.
Q: Why has it been a bad flu season?
A: Frankly, this is a particularly bad strain of flu. This strain is called H3N2 and it seems to be the bad one hitting us this year. Unfortunately, the vaccine that was created for the United States does not hit that one directly.
Q: Does that mean that this year’s vaccines are ineffective?
A: It’s not totally ineffective and we still recommend getting it. The thing is, even if you get the H3N2 strain, [the shot] will make your illness less severe. While the vaccines change from year to year because the strains change from year to year, the immunity you get each year does tend to have a shadow effect for a few years after that. Even though you’re getting vaccines against certain strains this year, that will still give you some protection if those strains show up again in the future.
Q: How to prevent catching the flu if it’s in the air?
A: Do things that will keep your body’s defenses up. Drinking lots of fluids, getting lots of sleep, using saline spray in the nose to keep things nice and moist, that’s the kind of stuff that will be really helpful.
Q: What about treatment?
A: In terms of just treatment, listen to what your body is telling you. Cytokines, chemical messengers [in the body,] will give you those feelings of feeling sick. One of those reasons that they do that is that they tell you to stop, just be quiet, don’t run around, don’t go shopping, don’t go to work, just stay home and drink lots of fluids and do the things your body is telling you to do. Once you have the flu, try to take care of yourself and get plenty of sleep. Chicken soup is good; people will often crave fruits that have a lot of fluid in them like citrus fruits, listen to what your body is telling you. It’s also not a good idea to lay down all the time; it’s still a good idea to get up and move around because what happens with the flu is your body is producing a lot more mucus. If you just lay in one position that mucus will settle in the lungs which can block up air passages and bacteria will not be able to work their way out and can fester up and cause pneumonia.
St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary Edwards, Alex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.