Approximately 7 million people reportedly caught the flu virus in the past three months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported earlier this month. And of those 7 million, some 69,000 to 84,000 people in the United States were hospitalized due to the flu from October through early January.
Who’s at risk?
So who’s most at risk for complications and further illness after contracting the widespread virus? Flu expert and chief of medical operations at Loma Linda University Health, Adrian Cotton, MD, says both children and elderly are the most at-risk populations for more serious or even lethal outcomes from influenza.
“In the bodies of those younger and older, the flu virus behaves the same as in the body of an adult,” Cotton says. “The symptoms are even similar. However, the virus can completely overwhelm a young child’s or an elderly person’s immune system. Because their bodies are weaker, they can’t fight off the virus as effectively as a healthy adult.”
The CDC lists those who are at greater risk for complication and hospitalization from the flu as people age 65 and older and 5 years of age and younger. “One of the best ways to protect those you love is by getting a seasonal flu vaccine yearly,” Cotton says. “It’s especially crucial to vaccinate yourself and those around you if you have a child younger than 6 months old.” He says these children are too young to be vaccinated and are at greatest risk of serious flu-related complications.
If your child aged 6 months through 18 years has chronic health problems such as asthma, lung disease, blood disorders and heart disease, they have a high risk of experiencing health complications after contracting the flu, according to the CDC.
What are the symptoms?
Common flu symptoms include a high fever, severe body and muscle aches, headaches, extreme fatigue and chest discomfort or a severe cough.
When should you seek emergency medical attention?
Cotton says to be on the lookout for emergency warning signs of flu complications if your child or an elderly person in your family has contracted the virus. The CDC advises people to seek emergency medical care if they are experiencing difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, or if the flu-like symptoms that improved return with fever and a worsened cough.
For more helpful information about this year’s flu season, visit our website. Or to learn more about flu prevention and to schedule your flu shot, contact Loma Linda University Primary Care at 909-558-6600. Don’t have time to call? Make your appointment quickly and easily online at MyChart.