If the upcoming flu season is anything like last year, humans of SWFL may have a problem.
In most years, people with the flu will exceed the average recorder amount in one or two age groups. The 2017-2018 flu season was the first to be classified as "high severity across all age groups," by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is a government organization that tracks health data.
It is challenging for people to avoid the flu, according to Dr. Stephanie Stovall, who is a senior doctor at Lee Hospital.
The most common way of catching the flu is by coming into contact with secretions, such as bacteria from a cough, she said. A person can contract influenza by shaking someone else's hand, then proceeding to touch his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
Medial professionals recommend having the flu vaccination to avoid severe symptoms of influenza. For instance, of the 180 deaths of children who died during the epidemic in 2017-2018, 80 percent occurred in children who had not received a flu vaccination in the season.
The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of contracting the flu by 40 percent to 60 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But the vaccine may not prevent the flu - it depends upon the most active strain of the flu that season.
Between 5 percent to 20 percent of Americans will contract the flu each year. The people at high risk for serious flu complications are young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions -- asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease -- and seniors 65 and above.
Dr. Stovall recommends shots for everyone six months or older. These flu shots are often free if you visit a drug store, health department and even some grocery stores.
People that have symptoms of the flu should see a medical professional.
"Most colds do not cause high fever whereas influenza typically will cause a high fever," Dr. Stovall said. "Influenza is more likely to be associated with more aches and pains."
Flu symptoms in adults and children commonly include severe body aches in joints and muscles, headaches, a sore throat plus a runny nose, tiredness around the eyes and dry coughs.
"Tamiflu is sometimes effective in walling the symptoms from becoming full-blown," Dr. Pamela St. Laurent said, who is a health sciences instructor at Florida Gulf Coast University. "But it is a virus. So you can’t really get rid of the virus once a person is affected. It needs to run its course and you can treat the symptoms."
In the meantime, after having the flu vaccine, there is an inexpensive option to prevent influenza.
"Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing!" Dr. St. Laurent said. People should not be content with washing their hands for a couple seconds.
"They say that the usual and proper thing is to sing the ‘Happy Birthday' song," the FGCU professor said.