This year’s flu season has started early, and it looks to be a hazardous one.
Epidemiologists in 36 states already have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in data released Friday (December 29th, 2017).
Twenty-one of those states show a high number of cases compared to previous seasons.
Jennifer Radtke, manager for infection prevention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, proposes that, “It’s just one of those years where the CDC is seeing that this strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year…They’re seeing that it’s anywhere from 10% to 33% effective, so any time there’s a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating strain of the flu, you’re going to see more cases.”
The peak for flu activity in the U.S. is usually sometime around February, which is why now is the time to prepare for the hardest hit of the season.
According to the CDC, “Vaccine effectiveness varies from year to year though recent studies show that a flu shot typically reduces the risk of illness by 40% to 60% among the overall population when the circulating virus is matched closely to the vaccine virus.”
Although this is a good protection against the flu, there is still a need for more protection against the flu.
These percentages can be skewed, because only a certain amount of people with flu symptoms go to hospitals and get tested; making it difficult to track the actual number of people affected.
Not only are some people not going to the hospital, but false negative results for flu tests are also common, and this disrupts the percentages the CDC delivers yearly.
Since the start of the flu season, Arizona has reported a nearly nine times increase in the number of cases compared with the same period last year, according to the state Department of Health Services.
This is a traumatic spike in cases and is troublesome as it could mean this year’s vaccine does not cover the new flu strains as well as previous years vaccines have.
Not only are the usual symptoms difficult to deal with (fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, cough, sore throat, and sometimes pneumonia), deaths already have occurred in some states this flu season.
In Arizona, one death of a child and an otherwise healthy 20-year-old mother of two in Phoenix died Nov. 28, one day after being diagnosed.
In California, at least 10 people younger than 65 have died, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
In Delaware, a 47-year-old man with underlying health problems and an 83-year-old woman have died, state health officials said.
In North Carolina, 12 people, including a child, have died.
In South Carolina, seven have died.
What is always recommended to help fight the flu is to wash your hands thoroughly and to use a non-alcoholic hand sanitizer frequently.