"I wish that there were better news this week, but nearly everything we're looking at is bad news", Dr. Anne Schuchat, acting director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday.
"Where we're really seeing unusual levels of hospitalizations is in non-elderly adults", Schuchat said. Officials say it's the highest rate of hospitalization for this point of the season in recent flu outbreaks.
Middle-aged people are being stricken at almost twice the rate seen in 2014-15, although health officials aren't sure why. Pediatricians say they're inundated with panicked moms and dads concerned their sick child might have the flu. That makes this year's count particularly high, especially since the flu season - which runs from about October to May - won't officially end for another four months.
It would make sense to see "a lot" of influenza deaths in the coming weeks, said Schuchat based on the fact that many people are now in the hospital.More news: Cavaliers trade Dwyane Wade to the Heat
According to the CDC's weekly surveillance report, there were 14,094 new confirmed cases ending February 3, bringing the season total of reported illness to 151,983. Only Hawaii and OR are seeing overall drops in infections. "In the last week, we have seen the highest number of new cases as well as the highest school absenteeism this season". The CDC only counts flu deaths in children; there have been 63 thus far.
"We also have information about paediatric deaths due to influenza, and we receive those reports each week". "Influenza-like illness is now at the same level as the peak week of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic".
"We don't have any signs of hospitalizations leveling off yet." said Schuchat.
But the dominant strain this year is H3N2, and some virologists are saying it's the worst flu season in years, and it's backed by data. Flu seasons dominated by H3N2 tend to be more severe and result in more hospitalizations. "Our virologists and others around the country are studying the virus to see whether there are other explanations for the more severe disease we're seeing".More news: British IS fighters 'the Beatles' captured in Syria
That means that some people who have been vaccinated are nonetheless contracting the flu this season.
According to the CDC, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, as long as influenza viruses are circulating. I know it's later in the season a lot of times that's not when you think about that. "But if we stay vigilant and take steps to fight flu, we can reduce the risk of getting - and transmitting - it". Norman Edelman, senior scientific advisor for the American Lung Association, told HealthDay.
There are a number of ways people can protect themselves and others. But are there good reasons to avoid the flu shot? And some protection is better than none.
Don't spread the misery. Here's a site that can you help find a place to get the jab - be sure to check before heading out, though, because supplies are running low at some places. Instead, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue.More news: Tech's Josh Pastner faces sexual assult lawsuit
Downes also recommended washing one's hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub for at least 20 seconds and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may, through habitual use, come into contact with an infected person.
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