By Steven Reinberg
Latest Cold and Flu News
FRIDAY, Jan. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The flu season is picking up steam, with about 7 million Americans having been infected with a strain of the flu virus, health officials said Friday.
Almost half of those folks went to a doctor, while between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized for flu-related illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new release.
Last week, nine states and New York City were reporting high flu activity, and it was widespread in 24 states. Updated numbers on how far the flu has spread had not been released as of Friday morning.
In 1918, H1N1 flu killed 50 million people around the world. But the current vaccine works exceedingly well against H1N1 — it is up to 65 percent effective, which is highly effective for a flu vaccine, according to the CDC.
“H1N1 is the most common [strain] in most of the country,” Lynette Brammer, head of the CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team, said last week. “But it’s odd that in the Southeast, the H3N2 virus is more common.”
The influenza A H3N2 strain is the one that made last year’s flu season so severe. When that strain predominated, nearly 1 million Americans were hospitalized and 80,000 died.
According to the CDC, flu activity has been high in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Virginia.
The CDC doesn’t track adult deaths from flu, but they do keep tabs on pediatric deaths. As of last week, that total was 13.
“There’s still a lot more flu season to come,” Brammer said last week. “I expect activity to continue for several more weeks.”
The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get a flu shot, and there’s still plenty of time to get vaccinated, she said.
“Anybody who hasn’t been vaccinated should go and get vaccinated,” Brammer said. This year’s vaccine is well matched to the circulating strains of flu and a lot of vaccine is available, she added.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. Getting your kids their flu shot is the best way to protect them and prevent deaths from the complications of flu, Brammer said.
Getting vaccinated won’t guarantee that you won’t come down with flu, but if you do, your illness will be milder, health experts say.
Brammer can’t predict when the flu season will peak, but it most likely won’t be until the end of February or March. So there’s still a long way to go, she said.
Copyright © 2019 HealthDay. All rights reserved.
SOURCES: Jan. 11, 2019, news release, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Lynnette Brammer, M.P.H., lead, domestic influenza surveillance team, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention