Mounting evidence that flu infection is now spreading through the deep south, west and central states, CDC says
The flu season has moved into more than 70 US states, the federal government says, with rising numbers of Americans being infected as their flu shots protect them from the disease but still leave them vulnerable to others who have not been vaccinated.
Flu disease cases spike across US as outbreak already worst in years Read more
“The flu season is now in full swing,” said Lynnette Brammer, the acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We are seeing increasing numbers of children and adults being hospitalized and making a lot of people sick.”
Overall, 34 children and 4,400 people in general have died from flu-related complications this season, compared with 43 children and 6,470 total flu deaths last year, the CDC said.
The newly announced cases suggest that this year’s influenza strains may be more severe than previously thought.
“Several studies have suggested a high risk of hospitalization and death in people younger than 65 with flu that also had other underlying health conditions that lead to serious consequences,” the CDC said in a statement.
During the holiday season, analysts had forecast the outbreak could reach epidemic proportions. So far, seasonal flu activity is highest in five states – Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Wisconsin and Maine – according to the CDC.
Those numbers have risen since the start of the new flu season, which began early in the autumn and peaks about in January, the CDC said.
This year’s flu strain is H3N2, an umbrella term for two clusters of viruses that, in typical flu season, tend to cause more severe disease. A third more people have died so far this season from H3N2, the CDC said.
People who should still be protected from the flu were urged to get vaccinated.
Cases of a new virus called SW3 – which has been in circulation outside the US – were reported for the first time in a month.
“This is not considered a norovirus,” said Dr Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “It appears to be on the cusp of becoming a community infection.”