This year’s flu season has arrived and is spreading progressively across the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which reported on Friday that influenza activity is “elevated” in all areas throughout the nation.
Officials at the CDC are tracking this season’s flu closely because the primary strain going around this year is H1N1, which targets young and middle-aged adults mostly and makes them especially sick.
Unlike other flu strains, which usually put the elderly at risk, the H1N1 virus is hitting younger adults the most.
“What we wonder now is whether there is a greater risk among kids and young adults,” said CDC flu expert Dr. Joe Bresee.
Influenza can also be deadly, killing anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 American adults and children each year. So far this year, 20 children have died from the flu, with over 2,600 being hospitalized due to the severity of symptoms.
The flu season kicked off this year in the southern areas of the nation and is now making its way to the Midwest, where people are being sickened at steadily growing rates.
So far, the CDC reports that there are 20 states with high flu activity levels, although 12 states – Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Vermont – are reporting minimal flu activity at this time.
Because the H1N1 flu makes people especially sick, patients are flocking to area emergency rooms, where physicians and other health care professionals are working round-the-clock.
Flu experts are warning patients with the H1N1 flu to stay away from others to avoid passing the infectious disease along.
Meanwhile, the CDC says that it’s still not too late to get a flu shot, which the agency reports prevented 6.6 million cases of the flu last year, keeping another 80,000 out of the hospital if they did contract the flu despite getting vaccinated.
There are also medications available that can ease the flu symptoms – like cough, fever, weakness and muscle aches – so long as they’re taken within 24 hours or so of coming down with influenza. Tamiflu is another drug that can shorten the duration of the flu, while also easing symptoms of the disease.
Not since 2009, during the swine flu pandemic, has the H1N1 virus made a come back – and the CDC is keeping its eye on the virus to look for any pattern changes that may indicate it’s spreading faster or making people sicker over time.
This year’s flu puts people with other chronic conditions even more at risk of becoming severely sick, including those with asthma and diabetes.
The CDC says the best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu shot and wash your hands thoroughly and often.