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Flu Season Less Severe, But Not Over Yet


Credit: iStock

As flu season continues, experts consider this season a milder, low-severity flu season compared with recent seasons, including the 2017–2018 season, which was believed to be one of the worst in years. Flu activity is currently decreasing, but continues to be elevated around the nation. And we still remain vigilant at Johns Hopkins to protect our patients, staff and community.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity has remained at high levels longer this season than in the past few seasons, though experts believe activity peaked nationally in mid-February. This season (as of April 2019), there have been fewer outpatient visits for flu-like illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths attributed to pneumonia and flu. Still, the CDC estimates that millions of people have gotten sick from the flu and tens of thousands have been hospitalized or died. Flu season runs through May.

The flu vaccine remains an important measure to protect yourself against the virus. In February, the CDC released a report on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine so far this season, estimating the vaccine is about 47 percent effective in preventing vaccinated people in the U.S. from getting sick enough from the flu to need medical care.

Still, Johns Hopkins experts recommend that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine every year. “The flu vaccine can prevent you from catching the flu or reduce the severity if you do get sick as well as safeguard those around you,” says Lisa Maragakis, senior director of infection prevention for the Johns Hopkins Health System and CEPAR’s senior adviser and subject matter expert for infectious disease, epidemiology and public health.

Our staff flu vaccine program also helps improve knowledge about the flu. The Johns Hopkins Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance (JHCEIRS) enrolls Johns Hopkins employees willing to participate in flu research into their Occupational Health Vaccine Study, which seeks to understand the factors that make vaccines effective, or not. “Johns Hopkins employees enrolling in the JHCEIRS Occupational Health Vaccine Study often know firsthand how devastating influenza can be; in fact, many enrollees express excitement at having an opportunity to participate in scientific studies to improve the flu vaccine,” says Katherine Fenstermacher, program manager for the JHCEIRS center. 

Other ways to prevent the flu include:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • When you are ill, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone.
  • When you cough or sneeze, cover your nose and mouth with a tissue, or the crook of your elbow if a tissue isn’t available. 
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Related Articles:

The 2017-2018 Flu Season – How Bad Was It?

2018 Protect Yourself from the Flu