Officials at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are saying the combination of the earliest start in nearly a decade, the nature of the cases and the predominant type circulating could make this a severe flu season. The primary strain being treated by doctors is the H3N2, an influenza A virus which has been associated in the past with the more severe flu seasons.
On the upside, this year's vaccine formulation is well-matched to the strains seen thus far this season. Almost daily, some form of news media is advising those who have not already done so to get a flu shot. For those who may be concerned, one cannot contract the flu by getting s flu shot.
Beginning in early December, flu cases had been reported in 29 states. By mid-December, 12 states, mostly in the South and Southeast, were reporting higher-than-normal cases of flu-like illnesses. They are: Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas. Utah and Virginia.
People should be aware that data from the past 20 years show there are more deaths and hospitalizations during years when H3N2 is the prominent flu strain. Joe Breese, chief of epidemiology at CDC's influenza division said, "Of the flu strains that are spreading this year, about 80% are the influenza A type, and almost all of these are the H3N2 strain."
On December 21, 2012 the Food and Drug Administration expanded the approval of Tamiflu to treat children as young as two weeks old who have shown flu-like symptoms. Previously Tamiflu had only been approved to treat children a year old or older and adults. For children two weeks old to one year old, the dose must be based on their exact weight.
On December 18, 2012 reporter Kelly McNew, WSLS, channel 10) in Botetourt County, VA told viewers the CDC was listing Virginia as seeing regional flu activity, which is one step below widespread.
Besides getting the flu vaccine, it is essential for everyone to practice good hygiene to help prevent the spread of the three strains of flu (A, B and norwalk-stomach) from spreading by:
- washing your hands
- not touching your face
- coughing into your sleeve
Some of the complications children are particularly susceptible to from the flu are:
- high fever
- severe dehydration
- secondary infections (ear infections, pneumonia)
- high rate of hospitalization