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'Many more weeks' to come in fierce, deadly flu season, CDC says

This year's seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States...

Posted: Jan 26, 2018 5:39 PM
Updated: Jan 26, 2018 5:39 PM

This year's seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States, as health authorities track additional deaths and hospitalizations -- and there's more of the season left.

Influenza activity continues to be widespread in all states except Hawaii, according to the weekly flu report released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

CDC: seven more children dead from flu bringing total this season to 37

Hospitalizations continuing to increase nationwide

All while, based on the latest data, the flu season has not even peaked yet, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.

"Hopefully we're in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come," Nordlund said.

The deaths of seven more children were reported this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths for the season, which began in October, to 37.

There were 11,965 new laboratory-confirmed cases during the week ending January 20, bringing the season total to 86,527. The number of people infected with influenza could be much higher because not everyone goes to their doctor when they are sick nor do doctors test every patient.

Additionally, there were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. That's an increase from the week before on par with the increases the CDC has noticed from week to week for the past couple of weeks.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, but also turn deadly.

"It's still not too late to get vaccinated, as we're starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity," she said, adding that if you think you have flu or if you are at a high risk for complications from flu, it is important to seek care early.

"Influenza antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for people at high risk, which includes children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes -- in children, a big category includes those with neurologic or developmental disorders," she said.

Flu is everywhere

Over the past 15 flu seasons, the current season is the first time all states in the entire continental US have reported widespread flu activity during the same week, according to the CDC.

"We are certainly seeing the impact of flu at our hospital locally," said Dr. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor and chief of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.

From New York to California, health care providers and state officials are taking matters into their own hands to do what they can to protect their patients and residents.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Thursday allowing pharmacists to administer flu shots to children between the ages of 2 and 16. In addition, insurers have been asked to waive pre-authorization requirements for antiviral medications within the first 48 hours of illness.

Over the past week, the state has diagnosed a record high number of flu cases and hospitalizations, with 1,759 New Yorkers being hospitalized with confirmed flu, according to Cuomo's office.

Schools in Gulf County, Florida closed Friday due to "a significant impact from influenza-like cases" among students and staff, according to an announcement from the superintendent of Gulf County Schools, on the school district's Facebook page.

Schools in Gunter, Texas closed "due to widespread flu and illness" for an entire week and reopened on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Gunter Independent School District's superintendent. The school district closed after 253 student absences, with the majority being due to either confirmed flu or flu-like symptoms.

While there's not one state in particular seeing the worst or higher flu activity than others, "we are seeing some signs that flu is on the decline in the West," CDC's Nordlund said.

'We tend to forget very rapidly the impact that influenza has'

Dr. Randy Bergen, clinical lead of the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Flu Vaccine Program, has been tracking laboratory surveillance and outpatient data for flu cases this season.

In a normal peak week of the flu season, Bergen said that Kaiser Northern California typically orders about 2,000 to 3,000 respiratory viral tests.

At week 52 of this flu season, which was the last week of 2017, however, "we did over 5,000 respiratory viral tests," he said. "So, I think those are kind of the most compelling numbers that perhaps I can give you for how severe this flu season is."

The current pervasiveness of the flu across the country appears to be similar to what was seen during peak flu season from 2014 to 2015, said Dr. Pedro Piedra, professor of molecular virology and microbiology and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

That year the H3N2 subtype of the influenza A virus was the dominant strain making people sick, which appears to be the same strain being seen this year. It is typically associated with higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths, as was the case in 2014 to 2015.

"We tend to forget very rapidly the impact that influenza has on our communities, and we often times have flu seasons just as intense as this one, but we forget it," Piedra said.

"Every so often -- it's really like every other year to every third year -- where we have a flu season that is intense," he said. "We are reminded about the number of deaths that we see, about the number of hospitalizations, the number of outpatient visits, but this happens."

Things to do to avoid the flu

To help prevent getting the flu this season, there is still time to get a flu shot, Whitley-Williams said.

"Even if you get the flu, having received the flu vaccine may help you in terms of not having as serious a course or as devastating a course," she said. "It may prevent you from being hospitalized if you have received a vaccine, so there is still that benefit in some cases."

She added that if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, and think that you may have the flu, it might be time to call your doctor -- especially if you have a persistent fever, weakness, or body aches that won't go away even with over-the-counter medications.

Regardless, "if you're pregnant, you definitely want to go in and see the doctor. If you're over 65, you definitely want to go in and see the doctor, and if you are under 5 years of age," she said. "These are the groups that are at highest risk."

In addition, the good old advice to wash your hands still holds true as well as keeping your germs to yourself.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 129863

Reported Deaths: 2367
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin33310981
Ramsey13782357
Dakota9541137
Anoka8414150
Stearns566541
Washington546970
Scott329334
Olmsted318330
St. Louis285065
Wright236714
Nobles221916
Clay221443
Blue Earth20207
Carver17437
Kandiyohi16505
Sherburne163421
Rice16059
Mower150315
Winona123618
Crow Wing98021
Lyon9516
Chisago9502
Waseca9229
Benton9107
Beltrami8717
Otter Tail8187
Todd7695
Steele7413
Nicollet71417
Itasca70617
Morrison6948
Freeborn6594
Douglas6473
Le Sueur6145
Martin60616
Polk5964
McLeod5804
Watonwan5764
Goodhue55811
Becker5383
Pine5230
Isanti5195
Chippewa4243
Carlton4111
Mille Lacs38714
Dodge3860
Hubbard3692
Wabasha3590
Cass3575
Pipestone34217
Meeker3223
Brown3163
Rock3154
Yellow Medicine2755
Cottonwood2720
Murray2723
Redwood26911
Fillmore2500
Renville24311
Sibley2433
Roseau2280
Faribault2210
Wadena2153
Unassigned21153
Jackson2071
Houston1951
Kanabec19510
Swift1941
Stevens1771
Lincoln1760
Pennington1741
Aitkin1652
Koochiching1654
Pope1540
Big Stone1320
Lac qui Parle1313
Wilkin1294
Lake1150
Norman1080
Mahnomen1062
Marshall1031
Clearwater1010
Grant924
Red Lake692
Traverse540
Lake of the Woods441
Kittson380
Cook120

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 112754

Reported Deaths: 1615
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk18617286
Woodbury704194
Johnson576330
Black Hawk544098
Linn5342129
Dubuque501657
Scott433738
Story394418
Dallas339744
Pottawattamie314844
Sioux236416
Buena Vista224112
Marshall198336
Webster180715
Plymouth161927
Wapello150562
Clinton143026
Muscatine140758
Crawford134414
Des Moines133610
Cerro Gordo131425
Warren12037
Carroll109912
Jasper107034
Henry10325
Marion96310
Lee93110
Tama92737
Delaware74212
Dickinson7217
Wright7101
Boone7039
Mahaska67024
Bremer6559
Harrison63711
Washington63411
Jackson5763
Benton5532
Lyon5337
Clay5144
Louisa51215
Winnebago46619
Hamilton4624
Hardin4606
Winneshiek4609
Kossuth4510
Poweshiek44711
Cedar4375
Buchanan4314
Jones4284
Floyd42511
Emmet42017
Clayton3933
Iowa3918
Cherokee3882
Page3860
Sac3854
Guthrie38015
Franklin37818
Cass3712
Mills3711
Shelby3621
Fayette3604
Butler3592
Madison3533
Allamakee3518
Chickasaw3411
Clarke3393
Humboldt3163
Palo Alto3082
Hancock3064
Grundy2925
Calhoun2904
Osceola2660
Howard2629
Monroe25811
Mitchell2430
Monona2361
Jefferson2311
Taylor2312
Union2234
Appanoose2203
Pocahontas2192
Lucas1986
Fremont1941
Ida1872
Greene1830
Van Buren1672
Davis1654
Montgomery1647
Keokuk1561
Adair1521
Decatur1480
Audubon1411
Worth1370
Wayne1163
Ringgold882
Adams740
Unassigned80
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