Flu outbreak is peaking earlier this year in US and is about to get worse driven by an unusual virus, warn experts
The CDC predicts that flu activity might peak between December and February, showing a 40% chance of a peak in December, a 30% chance of a peak in January, and a 25% chance of a peak in February.
This year, the flu season in the US has picked up earlier than usual. And it may get worse, say experts.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu activity might peak between December and February, showing a 40% chance of a peak in December, a 30% chance of a peak in January, and a 25% chance of a peak in February.
Half the country, says CDC, is having high or moderate flu activity, with 12 states showing intense activity. Widespread flu activity is seen in 16 states, including Alabama, California, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
There has been an estimated 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 910 flu-related deaths this year in the US so far, according to the CDC.
The health agency points out something odd about this season. They report a virus dominating this season is influenza B/Victoria viruses, which is usually inactive at this time of year.
Nationally, influenza B/Victoria viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among children aged 0-4 years and 5-24 years, while influenza A viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among persons, 65 years of age and older. But both types of the viruses have managed to almost equally infect adults aged 25-64 years.
Of the states most affected, Louisiana was the first to be affected, where doctors have been seeing large numbers of flu-like illnesses from October. New Orleans is also seeing a similar trend. Children’s Hospital New Orleans has already seen more flu cases this fall than it saw all of last winter, with last month being the busiest, Dr. Toni Gross, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine told NBC news. Officials had to set up a triage system and add extra shifts, he adds. “It is definitely causing symptoms that will put you in bed for a week,” including fever, vomiting and diarrhea, says Dr. Gross.
Some experts believe that the early start could be bad news this season. Dave Osthus, a statistician who does flu forecasting at Los Alamos National Laboratory told NBC news, “This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don’t know,” he said. And Gross is worried. She adds, “I, personally, am preparing for the worst."
Given these conditions, CDC is urging people to get themselves vaccinated against the virus. "It’s too early to know how well this season’s flu vaccines are working. Recent studies show that flu vaccination reduces the risk of going to the doctor for the flu by about 40% to 60% during seasons when circulating flu viruses are well-matched to flu vaccine," says CDC in a tweet.