What makes the flu deadly?

Health

It’s flu season again. Most of us who come down with the flu suffer through the symptoms for five to seven days.

But 80,000 Americans died last year as a result of complications from the flu. The Centers for Disease Control says the majority of people who die from the flu are elderly or people with compromised immune systems.

Springfield-based physician Dr. Ira Helfand told 22News that younger people still need to protect themselves with a flu shot and that having the flu leaves a patient vulnerable to other serious diseases.

“A certain percentage of people who get influenza go on to develop, around the third or fourth day, bacterial pneumonia in the lungs,” Dr. Helfand explained. “And, historically, when there are large flu outbreaks and many young people die, it was that pneumonia that killed most of them.”

With plenty of flu vaccines still available here in the Pioneer Valley, Dr. Helfand is urging people of all ages to protect themselves with a flu shot as soon as possible.

Big Y Pharmacist Stephanie Cloutier has seen more people coming in for the flu shot. She credits that increase to last year’s flu season.

“We had a really bad flu [outbreak] last year,” Cloutier told 22News. “They said they got the flu last year and they never want to experience it again, or they know someone who had the flu last year so they don’t want to experience it themselves.”

Dr. Ira Helfand added that when you get a flu shot you’re not only protecting yourself, you’re also protecting the people you come in contact with.

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