The data shows this is has been one of the worst flu seasons on record. Health officials continue to warn that the nasty flu strain, this year, has managed to spread to just about every corner of the United States.
Dan Jernigan, MD, puts it simply: “Flu is everywhere in the United States right now.” The Director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases of Influenza Division and the Captain of US Public Health Service continues, “There’s lots of flu in lots of places.”
First of all, the season started earlier than usual, which is definitely not a good sign. Furthermore, at least half of all states have reported significant flu activity. Indeed, Brenda Fitzgerald CDC Director adds, “We are currently in the midst of a very active flu season with much of the nation experiencing widespread and intense activity.”
So far, then, the data suggests that this will likely be one of the most severe flu seasons in years and will probably be quite similar to the flu season during 2014 and 2015.
And the reason this year is so rough has everything to do with the particular strain of the bug. The H3N2 strain is less common but more severe and, apparently, the immunizations did not have as much success as years past. This strain, unfortunately, is commonly linked to the most severe illnesses among older adults (age 65 and over) as well as young children (under the age of 5).
Jernigan continues, “This strain is associated with more cases and more hospitalizations and more deaths.”
Sure enough, not only are reported flu cases on the rise, but it looks like flu-related deaths are also up, this year. For one, pediatric deaths from complications of the flu, in the first week, are already up seven to bring the total for the season up to 20. Also, hospitalizations—especially among adults over the age of 50 and children under the age of 5 are on the rise.
Obviously, health experts and officials are urging that everyone get a flu shot but also there are several things you can do to further minimize your risks:
- Avoid close contact with those sick people
- If you get sick, limit your contact with other people
- Cover your nose and mouth—with a tissue—when you sneeze or cough and then properly discard the tissues
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap, and do it often
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects you suspect to be contaminated with the flu