The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Friday that the already bad flu season is causing more havoc across the United States, with the elderly being hardest hit, although there have been 29 children who have died from this season’s influenza outbreak.
According to the latest report released by the CDC today, 30 states have high influenza activity, which is an increase from 24 states reported last week. More than 5,000 people have been sick enough to be hospitalized, the report says.
“Forty-eight states reported widespread geographic influenza activity,” CDC says in its weekly influenza report. Widespread activity includes states with moderate and low activity.
CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden says that the U.S. is only about halfway through this severe season, and the worst outcomes are likely to get even worse as those who catch the flu develop complications.
"We expect to see both the number and rates of hospitalization and deaths to rise further," said Frieden who added that the flu is still increasing in some areas, particularly in the West. He also said overall visits to doctors for flu-like illness appear to be decreasing.
"Overall, activity is beginning to go down," Frieden said.
“Between October 1, 2012 and January 12, 2013, 5,249 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported. This is a rate of 18.8 per 100,000 population,” the CDC says. “More than 40 percent of hospitalized children had no identified underlying medical conditions.”
The 2012/2013 flu season hit hard and early, and has already spread to more than 90 percent of the nation. The elderly are especially at risk, with the CDC advising that people need to take care to protect the elderly.
This flu season alone has already seen the rate of hospitalization for those 65 and older increase to 82 per 100,000 people, which CDC experts say is a high rate comparable to recent severe seasons.
“If you’re around grandma a lot, make sure you are vaccinated,” said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. “Health care workers need to ensure they are vaccinated.”
The bottom line, Frieden said, is that people need to take this flu season seriously, seek vaccines and antivirals and do their best to prevent infection.
Common sense tips for protecting the flu from spreading include properly washing your hands frequently, using your arm or tissue when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding crowded spaces containing a lot of people.