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Here’s what you should know about influenza B, the second wave of flu season


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Photo: @crystalmariesing via Twenty20

Even though the bug season seems like it should be over, there’s a second wave of the flu going around that could still put you out of commission for a few days—and it’s a different animal than the strain that circulated during the winter.

Influenza B makes up 60 percent of newly reported cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and experts say this second wave of the flu is not uncommon. “Influenza A strains drop, and then we see a second wave of influenza B,” flu expert Stephen Ferrara, RN, DNP, and associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia University School of Nursing, told The Cut. “We’re not sure why that happens. There are hypotheses that it could be weather-related, and as temperatures warm up, influenza B becomes more prevalent—but we just don’t know.”

Ferrara said the shot is still worth getting even now, because those who contract the flu after being vaccinated won’t have as bad of a fever or be sick for as long as people without the vaccine will.

If you got a flu shot, Ferrara says you “probably got immunized against the A strain H3N2 and against at least one B strain as well,” but since two vaccines (one protecting against two B strains, the other against one) were produced this year and experts haven’t pinpointed exactly which strain is currently running rampant, it’s hard to be certain that you’re fully protected. Still, Ferrara says the shot is worth getting even now, because those who contract the flu after being vaccinated will likely have a less intense case than people who didn’t get the vaccine.

Even though Ferrera says there’s still debate about whether or not this strain is less severe in general, research notes it can be especially harmful to children. “We don’t want to put out a false sense that it’s any less severe,” he says. “Unfortunately, there will still be pediatric deaths this flu season, but there’s no need to panic. Influenza B tends to not be as contagious from person to person, so it’s slightly easier to prevent.”

Shot or not, avoid the flu’s second wave by being as healthy as possible. That means drinking lots of water, not touching your face, washing your hands, taking plenty of vitamins, eating a well-balanced diet, working out regularly, and avoiding sick peers at all costs.

Here’s why living in a sunny state can increase your odds of avoiding the flu. Also, find out if it’s healthy to work out when you have a bug.

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