“Is anyone else sick of hearing about the flu? I almost wish I got it so I could stay home and stop hearing people talking about it. It’s winter, people get sick, get over it” (excerpt from the Burlington County [NJ] Times, January 14, 2013).
Some people never get over it, though, as Patricia Bolden of Willingboro points out. Across the nation, flu has already killed many this year, and the season is far from over. (See slide show here.)
The South, Southeast, New England, and Midwest have all declined in new cases of the flu since last week. However, newly released figures confirm that influenza increased in the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest, and Northwest during the same period. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza remains above the epidemic threshold.
Almost all 50 states are still grappling with the disease. The Centers for Disease Control have calculated flu risk as "elevated" (at or above the national or region-specific baseline) throughout the nation. Measures of flu severity (laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations and deaths) have increased significantly again. Last week, flu and pneumonia accounted for almost one of every 10 deaths reported throughout the 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System.
Since the start of the season, influenza A (H3N2) viruses have predominated nationally, followed by influenza B viruses, while 2009 H1N1 viruses have been identified less frequently. Over the course of the season the predominant circulating virus has varied by state and by region.
The seasonal outbreak continues to do serious harm among seniors. Just over half of the 6,191 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season have been among people 65 and older. Most commonly reported underlying medical conditions among hospitalized adults: cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders, obesity, and chronic lung disease (except for asthma). About half (43%) of hospitalized children had no identified underlying medical conditions.
Vaccinations are still available throughout the United States. Despite some local shortages, about half the pharmacies that ran out of flu shots earlier have been resupplied, according to the National Influenza Vaccine Summit, a public health group.
Based in Chicago, Sandy Dechert has covered the 2012-2013 influenza epidemic for Examiner.com. She also reported top women's health news of 2012, including the fungal meningitis outbreak, West Nile virus, and other threats to the public health.
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