Flu strains hitting Central Floridians hard, health officials say
By Kimberly Wiggins, Reporter -
This year's strains of the flu virus are spreading fast and hitting Central Florida hard, according to local health officials.
Orange County Health Department spokesman Dain Weister said more locals are fighting the flu or other flu-like illnesses this year. He added that doctors at local health centers and hospitals started treating cases just after Thanksgiving.
"The ER visits we've been seeing are up right now about 150 percent compared to this time last year," Weister said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 29 states are experiencing high levels of influenza and influenza-like illnesses. So far, 26 children across the country have died.
The Florida Department of Health reports the majority of patients affected this year have been afflicted by two main strains: type A and type B, with type A being a little more severe. Type A is the same strain doctors treated nine years ago, when there was also a severe strain which wasn't a good match for the flu vaccine.
Health leaders are still urging everyone to get a flu shot this year. This year's vaccine is a good match, they say, which means it will wipe out the virus about 60 percent of the time.
Michelle Synder is eating her first family meal in days without hearing a symphony of symptoms. The mother of three said it started last Saturday.
"Just coughing a lot," Synder said, "followed by three days of a sore throat, and then the very next day, Sunday -- chills."
Synder said she was sick in bed with the one who tried to take care of her: her husband.
"We were both in bed together sick for the first time in our marriage," Synder said.
Most surprising? Synder is a nurse who received a flu shot weeks ago.
"And I still got sick," Synder said. "So if people think they're not going to get sick because they got the flu shot, I'm here to tell you that's not right."
Your best defense? Health officials still emphasize getting a flu shot. They also say to get treated early and to rest.
"Lots and lots of rest," Synder said. "Going to bed early. Lots of fluids. Taking tons of cold meds."
Flu season peaks in January or February, and lasts through May.