‘Many more weeks’ to come in fierce, deadly flu season, CDC says

(CNN)This year’s seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States, as health authorities track additional deaths and hospitalizations — and there’s more of the season left.

Influenza activity continues to be widespread in all states except Hawaii, according to the weekly flu reportreleased Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All while, based on the latest data, the flu season has not even peaked yet, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.
“Hopefully we’re in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come,” Nordlund said.
The deaths of seven more children were reported this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths for the season, which began in October, to 37.
There were 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported from October 1 to January 20. The number of people infected with influenza could be much higher because not everyone goes to their doctor when they are sick nor do doctors test every patient.
Additionally, there were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. That’s an increase from the week before on par with the increases the CDC has noticed from week to week for the past couple of weeks.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, but also turn deadly.
“It’s still not too late to get vaccinated, as we’re starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity,” she said, adding that if you think you have flu or if you are at a high risk for complications from flu, it is important to seek care early.
“Influenza antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for people at high risk, which includes children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes — in children, a big category includes those with neurologic or developmental disorders,” she said.

Flu is everywhere, may be declining in the West

Over the past 15 flu seasons, the current season is the first time all states in the entire continental US have reported widespread flu activity during the same week, according to the CDC.
During a call with reporters on Friday, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at CDC, pointed to two notable characteristics of this flu season.
“The first is that flu activity became widespread within almost all states and jurisdictions at the same time. The second notable characteristic is that flu activity has now stayed at the same level at the national level for three weeks in a row with 49 states reporting widespread activity each week for three weeks,” he said. “We often see different parts of the country light up at different times, but for the past three weeks the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu all at the same time.”
From New York to California, health care providers and state officials are taking matters into their own hands to do what they can to protect their patients and residents.
“We are certainly seeing the impact of flu at our hospital locally,” said Dr. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor and chief of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Thursday allowing pharmacists to administer flu shots to children between the ages of 2 and 16. In addition, insurers have been asked to waive pre-authorization requirements for antiviral medications within the first 48 hours of illness.
Over the past week, the state has diagnosed a record high number of flu cases and hospitalizations, with 1,759 New Yorkers being hospitalized with confirmed flu, according to Cuomo’s office.
Schools in Gulf County, Florida closed Friday due to “a significant impact from influenza-like cases” among students and staff, according to an announcement from the superintendent of Gulf County Schools, on the school district’s Facebook page.
Schools in Gunter, Texas closed “due to widespread flu and illness” for an entire week and reopened on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Gunter Independent School District’s superintendent. The school district closed after 253 student absences, with the majority being due to either confirmed flu or flu-like symptoms.
While there’s not one state in particular seeing the worst or higher flu activity than others, “we are seeing some signs that flu is on the decline in the West,” CDC’s Nordlund said.
During the call with reporters, Jernigan said, “we have several more weeks of flu to go, however, we have some signs that flu activity may have peaked in some parts of the country. California and other states on the West Coast are seeing activity begin to go down.”

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