The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, said Wednesday the flu levels reached “epidemic threshold.”
In declaring it an epidemic, the agency said 15 children have died from flu complications this season. Since last week’s flu report, the number of states reporting “influenza-like” illness activity increased from 13 to 22.
“The geographic spread of influenza in 36 states was reported as widespread; Guam, Puerto Rico, and 10 states reported regional activity; the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and two states reported local activity; and two states reported sporadic activity,” the CDC stated in its weekly report.
Meanwhile, the number of hospitalizations increased in the past week. In the week ending Dec. 20, four children died due to flu-like symptoms.
Six states–Colorado, Michigan, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia–had “moderate” influenza-like activity, and New York City and eight states had low activity, the CDC added.
As some experts have noted this year, this year’s vaccine for the flu is mismatched, meaning the common strain of the flu has mutated to the extent that it wasn’t possible to change the vaccine in time
“Although there is a mismatch with this year’s vaccine, it is still advisable to get vaccinated,” Dr. Amesh Adalja, a University of Pittsburgh Medical Center senior associate, told Epoch Times.
Against the new flu strain that’s been going around, he added, that “the current vaccine may provide some protection.” Dr. Adalja noted that there’s other strains “circulating and the vaccine would have activity against those strains.”
The current flu season likely will be “particularly harsh” due to the vaccine mismatch in tandem with the “characteristics of the predominant strain” that’s going around, he added.
“That an epidemic has been declared is not a reason to panic. People who are not vaccinated should get vaccinated, people should practice good cough etiquette (cough into their elbow), and those with underlying medical conditions such as pregnancy, lung disease, weakened immune systems should not try and wait out the flu but should seek medical attention,” said Dr. Adalja. “Also, physicians need to be aggressive with antiviral prescribing in order to limit the severity of infection in those who contract the virus.”
The chief of the Johns Hopkins’ Office of Epidemiology and Infection Prevention, Trish Perl, said children and the elderly are more likely to get sick. Average adults who get the flu shot “are in essence protecting those that are vulnerable,” she told the Washington Post.
“We forget that this is a bad disease and it kills people,” Perl noted.