Does it seem to you like there are more cases of the flu affecting people around town than in past years? Do the lines at the doctors' offices seem longer? Does the pharmacy counter at CVS look more crowded than most area restaurants on a Saturday night?
If that's the way it seems to you, you are not mistaken.
The Kane County Health Department provides regular reports, but nothing on the website so for in 2013. In the last week of 2012, the graph for the Influenza Surveillance Summary shows a big spike in flu cases in our area. Some stats:
- About 8.94% of participating hospital emergency room visits was for Influenza-Like-Illness (ILI).1 The age groups most affected this week were the 0-4 and 5 – 24 year olds, accounting for 34.08% and 35.09% of total flu cases this week. This week’s ILI rate of 8.94% was the highest for week 52 recorded since the last six years, including during the H1N1 season.
- During Week 52, labs reported that 478 of 1578 (30.3%) specimens tested for influenza were positive. Of these 478 positive specimens, 449 (93.9%) tested positive for influenza A, 28 (5.9%) were positive for influenza B, and 1 (0.2%) tested positive for influenza AB. No other specimens tested for influenza were positive for the week ending on December 29, 2012.
- There was no data for school absenteeism surveillance this week because all schools were closed for the holidays.
- To date, five outbreaks of Influenza have been reported from Long Term Care/Assisted Living facilities. Of these, four new outbreaks were reported this week.
Type A flu appears to be prevalent locally
Information from local doctors' offices indicates that cases are trending higher than in past years, both for illnesses relating to the flu, and for those who have been hospitalized due to the flu. At this point, it appears that Type A flu is the most prevalent locally.
Health experts recommend people get a flu shot even if they have already had the flu, since the shot protects against Type A and Type B.
According to flu.gov, the 2012-2013 flu vaccine is made from the following three viruses:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
- A/Victoria/361/2011 (H3N2)-like virus
- B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus
Flu.gov says the 2012-2013 flu vaccine will not protect against the H3N2v flu, associated with exposure to swine, which resulted in more than 300 flu cases in 2011 and 2012.
Some protection better than nothing, even at this late date
Experts say some protection is better than nothing, even at this late date. The flu vaccine becomes effective approximately two weeks after it is given. While the flu season generally is the worst in January and February, it runs through May. A flu vaccine protects you for one season only, so if you got one last year, that doesn't protect you this year.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says nationally flu levels are trending higher as well.
Nationally, flu rates near peak levels during moderately severe seasons
“Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons,” according to Dr. Joe Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division, on the CDC website. “While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations.”
The CDC also "recommends influenza vaccination and antiviral treatment when appropriate at this time," the website says. Antiviral treatments recommended for the 2012-2013 season include oseltamivir (Tamiflu®) and zanamivir (Relenza®).
The Red Cross also is urging everyone to get their flu shot now, and to take steps at home to prevent the spread of the flu. Here is a prepared release from the Red Cross:
Widespread flu activity is being reported across much of the country and the American Red Cross urges people who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to get vaccinated now.
The Red Cross also has steps people can take to prevent the spread of the flu virus during what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says is the worst influenza outbreak in several years in the United States. Widespread flu activity is reported in 41 states, including Connecticut.
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