Flu cases, hospitalizations and deaths have doubled in the past week, with the Southeast and Southcentral US regions hit hardest.
Nationally, there were an estimated 1,600,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza, 13,000 hospitalizations and 730 flu-related deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We’re seeing the highest rate of influenza hospitalizations in a decade,” said Dr. Jose Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC.
This period is still increasing rapidly. The flu usually starts steaming in November, peaks in December or January and continues until February or March.
South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, New York City and Washington, D.C. are all reporting high levels of influenza-like illness, while no states reported high levels last year at this time. or very severe illness according to the CDC.
The hospitalization rate this season is the highest since the 2010-2011 season. CDC data shows that there were 4,326 newly admitted patients in hospitals this week alone, a significant increase compared to 2,332 hospitalizations last week.
A new human case of the influenza A virus was reported by the New Mexico Department of Health last week, meaning the strain is new to humans. Novel influenza A viruses are believed to pose a greater pandemic risk than others and are of concern to public health officials because they cause severe human illness and death, according to the CDC.
“About 20% of respiratory samples in the southeastern United States are positive for influenza viruses, mostly influenza A and H,” said Romero.
Last week, the CDC reported that H3N2 is the most prevalent virus. While it’s too early to see if this trend will continue, past seasons have seen mostly H.I.
Dr. Peter Chin Hong, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco, said, “Influenza is very dangerous for the very young and the very old and the stress around it, H3N2 is very ugly.” .
This early flu season also sees children’s respiratory illnesses such as RSV filling 76% of pediatric beds, activity in the nation’s emergency rooms, and COVID-19 surgery.
The flu vaccine is recommended for people 6 months and older. The best time to get the flu shot is as soon as possible.
Romero reiterated that the CDC recommends that children ages 6 months to 8 years get their first shot, or that those who have previously received only one dose receive two doses. Vaccinations are given four weeks apart.
There are also prescription flu antiviral medications that can be used to treat the flu that should be started as soon as possible.
“If you’re diagnosed with influenza, everyone can get early treatment, and Tamiflu is going to save you from that miserable experience,” said Chin-Hong.