FRIDAY, Jan. 11, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The flu season is picking up steam, with about 7 million Americans having been struck by a strain of the flu virus, health officials said Friday.
Almost half of those folks went to a doctor, while between 69,000 and 84,000 people have been hospitalized for flu-related illness, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a new release.
As of Jan. 5, 15 states and New York City were reporting high flu activity, and it was widespread in 30 states.
The most common type of flu around is still the influenza A strain H1N1. That strain has been circulating and was pandemic in 2009 and in 1918.
In 1918, H1N1 flu killed 50 million people around the world. But the current vaccine works exceedingly well against H1N1 — it is up to 65 percent effective, which is highly effective for a flu vaccine, according to the CDC.
“H1N1 is the most common [strain] in most of the country,” Lynette Brammer, head of the CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team, said last week. “But it’s odd that in the Southeast, the H3N2 virus is more common.”
The influenza A H3N2 strain is the one that made last year’s flu season so severe. When that strain predominated, nearly 1 million Americans were hospitalized and 80,000 died.
According to the CDC, flu activity was widespread in 30 states — Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming.
The CDC doesn’t track adult deaths from flu, but they do keep tabs on pediatric deaths. As of Jan. 5, that total was 16.
“There’s still a lot more flu season to come,” Brammer said last week. “I expect activity to continue for several more weeks.”
The best way to protect yourself and those around you is to get a flu shot, and there’s still plenty of time to get vaccinated, she said.