The flu season is still in full swing this season and is not showing much in the way of recession. As many as 43 states are experiencing high or widespread flu activity. The only state that is seeing rather low rates of cases is Hawaii.
The predominant flu strain is still the bad variety – H3N2, which is known to be more deadly and cause stronger symptoms than other popular forms. As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are predicting that deaths and illnesses will be more severe this year. On top of the stronger influenza virus this year, there is also the issue with the flu vaccine not being a good match for H3N2. The virus mutated earlier in the year, and it was too late to develop the vaccine for the new form. It also could not be mass-produced in sufficient quantities in time.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says that the flu vaccine is expected to be only about 33 percent effective. Even though this means that it most likely will not prevent someone from getting the flu, it is still being recommended that people get the shot anyway. This is because it is believed that it will lessen the symptoms and make them not as severe as they might be without it.
The last week of the year witnessed a lower death rate than was seen the week before. Two weeks ago, there were a total of 837 deaths in all 50 states. This was higher than the 601 deaths that occurred in the last week of the year. The reduced numbers meant that the threshold numbers for being called an “epidemic” was missed by .001 percent.
Even though the H3N2 influenza virus was the predominant one this past year, it was not the only one. There were actually as many as 1,641 different flu viruses in circulation in the last week of the year, reported Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the CDC. Even though the current flu vaccine offers only a little resistance against the predominant strain, it does provide protection against most of the other forms.
When stronger drug treatment is needed to help fight off the flu symptoms, the most popular medications, Tamiflu, Relenza, and Rapivab, will help. Some flu vaccines have shown evidence of being somewhat drug resistant, but they have not yet been seen in the United States, the CDC said. Those who are at the highest risk for severe problems with the flu are those who are older than 65, or younger than five. In addition, women who are pregnant, and others who have medical conditions such as liver disorders, or asthma, are among those who are at the highest risk level.
Among those who have died this flu season, there were 21 children. Those who are requiring hospitalization from the flu have risen to 5.9 percent.
Flu continues to spread throughout the U.S. This last week, the flu had hit hard in 43 states, being the worst in the South, particularly Tennessee. Last week, however, it was only in 36 states, and it really has not yet hit hard in either the northeast or the far western states. It appears that we are still in the middle of the flu season, and it may stick around until May.
By Michael Valles