HealthDay News – Flu continues to spread throughout the United States and has reached elevated levels in nearly every state, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re still seeing an increase in activity, which is what we’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks,” Scott Epperson, MD, an epidemiologist in the influenza division of the CDC, told HealthDay. Epperson added that it is still too early to know how severe this year’s flu season will be. But in most years, many millions fall ill, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and as many as 50000 Americans die.
So far, the CDC estimates that nearly 5 million Americans have been sickened, 39000 have been hospitalized, and 2100 have died from flu complications. Twenty-two children have died from the flu — up 3 from a week ago. This year, doctors are seeing an unusual mix of viruses. In most years, the flu begins with a wave of influenza A viruses like H1N1 and H3N2 followed by a wave of influenza B viruses. This year, however, B viruses are the most common strains, except in the Northeast and Midwest where influenza A viruses are predominant. Children younger than 5 years are the most vulnerable to influenza B, and children make up the majority of those hospitalized, Epperson said.
The good news is that there is plenty of the flu vaccine — around 170 million doses have been distributed. And it is not too late for patients to receive a flu shot. The CDC wants everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot each year. This year’s vaccine contains all the A and B viruses that are circulating.