This Season's Flu Ties Hospitalization Levels Not Seen Since the Swine Flu in 2009
NEW YORK — In their latest report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows nationally one out of every 13 visits to the doctor last week was for fever, cough or other symptoms of the flu.
That ties the highest level seen in the U.S. since the swine flu in 2009.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
New Hampshire state epidemiologist and infectious disease doctor Benjamin Chan says the type of flu virus we are seeing this year is H3N2, which is important because “when we’ve had this strain circulating in the past we’ve tend to have more severe flu seasons. So we’re seeing a very active and very severe flu season,” Chan told NH1.com.
Listen to Dr. Chan on The NH1 Community.
Flu season usually takes off in late December and peaks around February. This season started early and was widespread in many states by December. Early last month, it hit what seemed like peak levels — but then continued to surge. Last week, 48 states were reported widespread flu activity, with Oregon and Hawaii reporting less activity.
CDC acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat says in the past week, “we have seen increased influenza-like illness activity, more hospitalizations, and tragically, more flu associated deaths in children and adults.” Numbers of nationwide flu-related hospitalizations are the highest on record.
New Hampshire isn’t spared.
“When H3N2 is a predominant influenza virus that is circulating we tend to see more outpatient visits for influenza-like illness, we have more hospitalizations, we have higher-severity infections leading to even death unfortunately,” Chan said.
Nationally, there has been 53 pediatric flu deaths so far this season. None of those cases have been in the Granite State. New Hampshire health officials say 20 adults have died from the flu in the 2017/2018 season. Chan warns 20 is a best estimate and there could be more.
Chan says we do know the flu has hit several counties throughout the state.
Still, the best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get a flu shot, and it’s not too late.
“It’s true the influenza vaccine tends to be less effective against H3N2 strains. But even with lower effectiveness, it can still help prevent complications from the flu and hospitalizations,” Chan said. He says it also can protect against other strains.
Chan says the flu vaccine will not cause you to get the flu. The misconception that has been floating around on internet blogs is simply not accurate.
Other ways you can protect yourself from the flu is to practice good handwashing and hygiene and to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
The CDC says especially this year it’s important to speak with your doctor about possible warning signs in children. If your child has any of these following symptoms: high, persistent fever, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, rapid heart beat, shallow rapid breathing, significant tiredness or confusion you should call your pediatrician. If your child’s illness seems to get better than gets worse, you should visit a doctor. Officials warn it could be a secondary bacterial pneumonia.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.