2018 flu season hanging on longer as B strain starts to take hold

A typical flu season usually lasts about six weeks and ends in March, but this season so far has seen 16 weeks of widespread flu in Ohio, said Dr. Jennifer Hanrahan, medical director for infection prevention at MetroHealth Medical Center.

“We still have positive tests (for flu) every day,” she said. “I don’t remember another flu season that’s lasted this long, and this many people got sick.”

Influenza B strain, which tends to hit as the weather becomes mild, is becoming more active and prolonging the season. Experts expect to see an uptick in flu cases for the next few weeks as the B strain spreads.

Doctors are seeing more patients coming down with the B strain of influenza, which annually causes illness through May. But the A strain is still circulating, too. Usually, one strain dominates early in the season with the other coming on late. “We’re still seeing a lot of influenza A,” Hanrahan said, adding that either strain can cause severe illness and death.

If you got sick with the flu earlier in the season, you can catch it again from a different strain.

So keep coughing into your elbow, washing your hands and staying home if you don’t feel well. It’s not too late to get a flu shot if you haven’t already done so, Hanrahan said.

The flu usually comes on suddenly. Symptoms include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and tiredness.

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