The flu continues its spread across the country, with increasing prevalence in nearly every state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “We’re still seeing an increase in activity, which is what we’ve been experiencing over the last few weeks,” said Scott Epperson, M.D., an epidemiologist in the influenza division of the CDC. He said it’s too early to assess the severity of this year’s flu season. But in most years, many millions contract the flu, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and as many as 50,000 Americans die.
To date, the CDC estimates that nearly 5 million Americans have contracted the flu, with 39,000 having been hospitalized, and 2,100 who have died from flu complications. Children under the age of 5 and older adults are the most vulnerable to the disease, so it’s particularly important for those populations to be immunized against the flu.
The CDC reports that most flu activity to this point has been caused by Influenza B/Victoria viruses, which typically appear later in the season. However, Influenza A is increasing in proportion in some regions. B strains of the flu are prevalent in southern states including, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia. Likewise, the area between Pennsylvania and Virginia is experiencing more illnesses related to B strains. However, other areas, such as the Carolinas the northeast, continue to experience more illness from the A strain. Some Midwestern states, including Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska and Indiana also report higher numbers of A strain cases.
“Since mid-December, influenza activity has really ramped up,” said Marie-Louise Landry, MD, a Yale Medicine infectious disease expert and the director of the Yale Clinical Virology Laboratory. “All four influenza strains are circulating, but so far A/H1 and B/Victoria have been more common.”
With more than 170.3 million doses of flu vaccine already delivered this season according to the CDC, the country has seen one of the most highly successful efforts ever against the annual flu outbreaks. However, people who haven’t yet been vaccinated should make it a priority to do so. With many more weeks remaining in the flu season now underway, it’s not too late to receive a flu shot. Flu vaccination remains the optimal way to prevent the flu and its potentially serious complications. Check with your provider to determine the best place to access the vaccine as soon as possible.