A new report into this year’s flu crisis in the US has shown that it has now become the most severe we’ve seen for several years. The report shows that the virus has now spread across 49 states, with the total number of cases reaching over 74,000 in the season. These figures don’t include those who didn’t report their illness or visit a health professional.
The number of hospitalizations seen over the season has been worrying, with 31.5 people being admitted in every 100,000. In addition to this, there were ten more deaths among reported related to the flu in January, which brings the total to thirty. The rate of older people suffering fatal complications from the flu including pneumonia was also much higher than the expected rate. It was estimated that 8.2% of all deaths over the period were connected to influenza.
Lynnette Brammer, head of the CDC’s Domestic Flu Surveillance team said “Hopefully we’re at the peak now, but until we see it go down for a couple of weeks we won’t know that we have reached peak yet,” said Brammer. “Some areas of the country may have, but I think some areas are probably still going up.” She added that the rising number of cases of the H3N2 virus strain is responsible for the number of fatalities we’ve seen this season.
It’s recommended that all high risk individuals, including children, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems are vaccinated to stop the flu spreading. “We want to continue to emphasize that there’s still a lot of flu activity to come, people that haven’t been vaccinated should still get the vaccine. Given that we’re seeing so much flu activity, particularly people who are high risk, the elderly, children under 2, pregnant women, and people with chronic health problems, should talk to their doctors about antiviral medications to treat the Illness,” said Brammer.
According to Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City “To be honest, in the US today, there’s so many people walking around with at least one comorbidity — diabetes or hypertension or congestive heart failure or COPD — you’re talking about a tremendous number of people. We have multiple 45-year-olds with diabetes who required admission to the hospital,” said Ardolic. “We’ve had multiple 62-year-olds who are in the ICU with pneumonia on antibiotics and even on ventilator therapy. There’s no question that the people who got their flu shots this year got less sick than the people who didn’t. The sickest people are still clearly the ones who did not get their flu shots.”