The number of flu cases is on the rise across the country, and Missouri is one of the states being hit the hardest.
However, the flu isn’t the only thing slowing people down this time of the year. In addition to the flu, the common cold is popping up around St. Joseph, but it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two.
A cold tends to sink in more slowly and affects the sinuses, where the flu tends to set in immediately and cause severe body aches. While the common cold and the flu are both upper respiratory problems, doctors said the flu can do a lot more damage to your health.
“With the flu you do typically suffer more of the body aches, the fever and the chills. With a cold, you might feel congested, have a sore throat, but you typically don’t feel like you’ve been hit by a truck," Dr. Cynthia Brownfield said. "The flu will classically make you feel so fatigued. It kind of sneaks up and grabs you all at once. That’s a good time to go see your doctor and find out if it’s truly the flu."
Brownfield said practicing good hygiene and getting the flu shot is the best way to avoid getting sick.
“The best way to prevent the flu is getting the flu vaccine. It's received a lot of scrutiny this year because our current strain, H3N2, is a very high mutater, so the flu shot is not quite as active,” Brownfield said. “However, the flu shot does protect against four different strains, so it’s still your best bet in avoiding contracting any one of the strains of the flu."
If you are already feeling under the weather, Brownfield recommends waiting to return to your regular schedule until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours and your cough is properly managed to avoid spreading the flu.
The CDC said the flu has already claimed the lives of hundreds of people in Missouri, with over 86,000 cases reported nationwide.
“Any flu season can be difficult. Any flu season can cause death. The problem this year is there is a predominant strain is the H3N2. It’s a high mutater, so we didn’t get the full protection from the flu vaccine," Brownfield said. "The CDC clearly knows the H3N2 years tend to be a little bit more severe."
The typical flu season will peak in February, but with the severity of this particular strain it is unlikely we will see the end of flu season anytime soon.
“Since this has been a particularly tough season, the CDC has predicted that we probably still have another 12 weeks of flu season,” Brownfield said.