Although this year's flu season has barely peaked yet, it seems as though it's all anyone can talk about. Between parents trading war stories about their family's bouts of the virus, coworkers sharing how they're trying to stay healthy while giving side-eye to the person coughing across the room, and doctors on the news reporting on the deadly strain they're seeing circulate this year, it's seemingly never-ending. And unfortunately, according to the CDC and a doctor in the country's fourth busiest emergency room, this year's flu season could potentially go on much longer, stretching itself into May.
Along with this bleak news, however, Dr. Mark Rosenberg has a slight but reassuring silver lining: even though this year's unique flu strain is hitting those who have been vaccinated, getting a flu shot (even today) could lessen the flu symptoms you experience from said strain, as well as shorten the overall length of the virus.
"This year, the big difference is the flu vaccine. We're seeing more people come in who had the flu vaccine who now have the flu," Dr. Rosenberg, who works at St. Joseph's Healthcare System in New Jersey, told ABC News. However, he added: "The most important thing is get the flu vaccine, even if it's not as effective as years prior. What we do know is if you take the flu vaccine, your symptoms and the flu duration will be less. So that's the most important thing."
Dr. Rosenberg — who said that this year's strain appears to be "more virulent," coming on quickly and more severely, especially in kids and older patients — shared that his ER has seen more patients this year because primary-care physicians are backlogged with flu patients. "In pediatrics in particular, we had to put two beds in each room just to be able to handle the sheer volume of pediatric patients coming in," he said. "We have a 20 percent increase in pediatric patients and geriatric patients coming in because of the flu."
In order to attempt to keep healthy this flu season, Dr. Rosenberg recommends washing your hands (or using Purell) frequently, staying away from sick friends and family if possible, and keeping away from others if you're sick so as not to contaminate anyone else.