This year’s flu season is in full swing and widespread, according to a report released from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday. The report states that influenza activity is widespread in 25 states, but it has not yet reached epidemic levels.
“We’re seeing pretty substantial increases in activity, but they’re not unexpected,” says CDC medical officer, Dr. Michael Jhung, who is with the flu division at the agency. “We see pockets of high activity in several states and pockets of low activity in others, but we expect every state will get hit.”
Of all the affected state’s, Michigan has seen some of the highest flu activity, especially at the University of Michigan, where over 12 adults and kids who have the flu virus are currently on life support.
In a statement released from the hospital at University of Michigan, officials say that most of those on life support are young and otherwise healthy, but were transferred to the hospital because of the severity of the flu strain they contracted.
Most of these patients have the H1N1 strain of flu, which primarily infects young adults and middle-aged people, but not the elderly. This year’s flu vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 strain. Unfortunately, the staff at the hospital is reporting that these patients did not get a flu shot, or otherwise did not get one in time to be fully protected against influenza.
“We see thousands of people admitted into the hospital with influenza every year and we expect to see admissions this year, too,” said Dr. Jhung. "We have received reports of hospitalizations in young and middle-aged adults this year, and while this makes sense to us, given that it’s an H1N1 season, it’s different from what many people expect to see during the flu season because they’re not used to the idea of seeing severe illness in people this age.”
H1N1 is returning this year as the dominant flu strain, which began circulating early in the season, according to the CDC. The H1N1 strain was last seen during the flu pandemic in 2009, and the strain is known for primarily infecting younger adults between the ages of 18 and 49 years old, as well as middle-aged people between the ages of 49 and 64.
On average, the CDC says that 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza each season, and causes death in some 3,000 to 49,000 people per year.
To date, six children have died from the flu this year, compared to 171 children who were killed by influenza last year.
Meanwhile, the CDC is continuing to monitor flu activity across the U.S., looking for any changes in this year’s H1N1 virus that may indicate the strain is growing severe or spreading quickly.
Although nobody knows how severe this year’s flu season will get, the best way to prevent influenza is to get a flu shot.
According to the CDC, anyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccination on a yearly basis. Last year, government statistics show that around 6.6 million flu cases were prevented as a result of people getting flu shots.
This year’s influenza vaccine not only protects against H1N1, but it also protects against a strain of H3N2 flu and either one or two strains of influenza B.