It seems everywhere I turn the last few weeks, someone I know has got the flu. And even the most hardened, toughest dudes I know, are bellyaching and crying at this year's influenza virus. Starting with a cough and runny nose, and working its way up to fever, sore throat, and chills. It's a doozy for sure.

Labeled by the CDC as a version of H3N2, it's a particularly nasty strain that has caused more than 1,700 confirmed cases and 400 hospitalizations so far in Maine's 2017-2018 flu season. In addition, more than 20 people have died from this year's strain, making it one of the deadliest in recent years. Other states are experiencing similar outbreaks as well. This year's overall numbers are tracking us about three times ahead of last year.

Eastern Maine Medical Center’s interim senior vice president and chief medical officer, James Jarvis, MD, FAAFP says:

"We have seen a steady increase in confirmed cases of influenza at Eastern Maine Medical Center locations, including our Emergency Department. This mirrors what is being seen in Maine and around the country. As we treat patients with both influenza and influenza-like illnesses, often without the need for confirmatory tests, it is difficult to place an exact number on the total number of cases."

There's a lot you can do to prevent the spread of the flu virus. A lot of it is common sense when it comes to staying healthy at any time of the year, but since this year's H3N2 strain is so powerful, you should take advantage of anything to help you and those in your house to stay out of trouble.

Try these simple tips:

  1. Get a flu shot. They don't guarantee you won't get the flu, but every little bit helps.
  2. Wash your hands! This will keep passing germs around to a minimum.
  3. Avoid sick people. Don't visit your sick friends and family unless absolutely necessary.
  4. Cover your cough. Ideally cough into your elbow, as it will keep airborne germs down to a minimum.
  5. If you're sick, STAY HOME!!! The worst thing you can do is make other people sick. Don't be a trooper. Work can live without you for a day or two.

Dr. Jarvis also had this to add:

"It is not too late to be vaccinated against influenza for this year and help prevent the spread of the disease, practice proper hand hygiene, and sneeze and cough etiquette."

All in all, some of these tips may seem pretty obvious, but you want to be down for the count, when you could have done your part to avoid it in the first place?

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