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Influenza B strain hitting harder and earlier than in past years

For the first time in almost 30 years, the influenza B strain is more prevalent than influenza A, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Plus, while it normally starts showing up toward the end of flu season, influenza B is making its presence known earlier this flu season — even locally.

HSHS Medical Group has seen more than 1,600 flu cases this flu season across Central and Southern Illinois. Nearly 1,000 of those cases were diagnosed as Influenza B.

Between Jan. 1 and Feb. 17, 2020, HSHS St. Anthony’s Memorial Hospital, HSHS St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, HSHS Holy Family Hospital, HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Breese and HSHS St. Joseph’s Hospital Highland have had nearly 500 confirmed cases of influenza B.

The CDC states that symptoms of Influenza A and B include:

– Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not all with the flu will have a fever)
– Cough
– Sore throat
– Runny or stuffy nose
– Muscle or body aches
– Headaches
– Fatigue (tiredness)
– Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

The flu shot will help protect you from both Influenza A and B. “There is still time to get a flu vaccine,” said Marc McCleary, MD, family medicine physician with HSHS Medical Group. “A flu shot is the best protection against the flu and is recommended to everyone ages six months and older.”

Doctors recommend you follow these guidelines to help prevent the flu, in addition to the flu shot.

·         Wash your hands. Hand washing is one of the best practices you can adopt to keep both colds and the flu from spreading. When soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

·         Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Using a tissue helps keep germs from spreading to yourself and others. If you don’t have a tissue or cloth, cough or sneeze into the inside of your elbow or upper arm.

·         Stay home if you are feeling sick. If you or your kids get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them. Conversely, avoid close contact with anyone who appears to be sick.

·         Avoid sharing objects such as utensils, cups, bottles and telephones. If you must share, disinfect the objects before using them.

·         Stay active. Regular exercise, especially vigorous exercise, will keep your body healthy.

·         Eat more fruits and vegetables. Eating oranges and other vitamin C-rich fruits and vegetables is a great way to support your immune system.

·         Drink plenty of water. Water simultaneously flushes out your system, rids you of infected germs and rehydrates you. If you already have the flu, make sure you don’t get dehydrated.

·         Get enough sleep. Getting enough sleep is very important when it comes to assisting your body in fighting off infections. Sleep gives you more strength and helps your body get rid of the virus more quickly.

Flu shot vaccinations are available at HSHS Medical Group offices and urgent care clinics.


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