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Mason researcher urges precautions as flu season begins

November 2, 2018

Gary L. Kreps

It’s flu season again, but George Mason University’s Gary L. Kreps says there’s one strain in particular to keep an eye on.

Because it’s able to metastasize quicker than other variations to get around the human body’s immune system, the nasty H3N2 flu strain is responsible for more hospitalizations, deaths and illnesses than the other viruses targeted in this year’s seasonal vaccine. Those particularly at risk to the H3N2 strain include the very young, the elderly and people with certain chronic health conditions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the flu has resulted in between 9.2 million and 35.6 million illnesses and anywhere from 12,000 to 56,000 deaths annually since 2010.

“Every flu season is different, and influenza season can affect people differently,” said Kreps, a University Distinguished Professor and the director of Mason’s Center for Health and Risk Communication, “but millions of people get the flu every year, hundreds of thousands of people are hospitalized and thousands or tens of thousands of people die from flu-related causes every year. An annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to help protect against flu.”

The H3N2 and H1N1 flu strains are the ones that most commonly infect humans and are largely responsible for outbreaks.

“Aside from vaccination, the single most important thing to do is prevent the spread of germs,” Kreps said. “Wash your hands frequently, soap up between your fingers and don’t forget your thumbs, and scrub for about 20 seconds.”

The onset of the flu typically starts like a cold but is usually followed by headaches, chills and fatigue. Other potential symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffed nose, and muscle or body aches.

Those who are very sick or at risk for serious complications should be treated as soon as possible with antiviral drugs.

Gary L. Kreps can be reached at 703-993-1094 or at gkreps@gmu.edu.

For more information, contact John Hollis at 703-993-8781 or jhollis2@gmu.edu.

About George Mason 

George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 37,000 students from 130 countries and all 50 states. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.