Flu cases on the rise, experts say

Posted: Updated:
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

PHOENIX -- Not only is flu season early this year, but there is a spike in cases around the country and many experts are looking at weather as the cause.

"[W]hen the humidity is low it seems the virus has an ability to thrive much better," Dr. Art Mollen said. The drying out of your nasal passages “sets up a much more receptive environment for the virus to go into your nasal passages and down into your chest."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 41 states reported widespread cases of the flu. So far over 2,200 people have been hospitalized and there have been 18 reported deaths related to the flu for the 2012-2013 season.

Some of the public places and items with the most germs include:

  •   restaurant menus,
  •   lemon wedges,
  •   condiment dispensers,
  •   restroom door handles,
  •   soap dispensers,
  •   grocery carts,
  •   airplane bathrooms,
  •   doctors' offices.

It is important to wash your hands often with soap and warm water to avoid getting and spreading the flu virus. Another way to prevent the flu is getting vaccinated.

Mollen recommends that people get a flu shot early on, noting that it is about 70-90 percent effective in preventing people from getting the virus. The vaccine contains three strains of the virus but moving forward one more strain will be added for better protection in the years to come.

For those who are already suffering from the flu, antiviral treatment within 48 hours of illness onset can shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications, according to the CDC.

Experts note that people 65 years and older, pregnant women, young children, and those with chronic medical conditions are at a higher risk of developing more serious complications from the flu.

For more information visit CDC.gov or azdhs.gov/flu/.