KHQ MD ALERT: Flu Season Could Be A Bad One, Health Officials Say
NBCNEWS.COM - This year's flu season has
kicked in early, with activity up significantly across the nation, particularly
in the south and southeast, federal health officials say.
"It looks like it's shaping up
to be a bad flu season," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.
The percentage of aching,
feverish folks who went to the doctor with influenza-like illness had reached
the national baseline of 2.2 percent, the earliest that has happened in the
regular flu season in nearly a decade, the 2003-2004 season. Flu season may
start as early as October, but typically peaks in January or later.
Five states reported high
levels of flu activity -- Alabama,
Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. Widespread activity was
reported in four states, regional activity was seen in seven states and 19
states reported local flu activity, CDC officials said. That was up from eight
states that reported local flu activity the previous week.
By contrast, last year's flu
season started late, with an uptick in cases not starting until February.
Health officials are urging
people to get their flu shots now, including babies older than six months, and
all adults and children. Every year, about a quarter of the U.S. population gets
flu and an
average of about 36,000 people die.
The strains making people sick
are influenza A -- both H3N2 and the 2009 H1N1 or pandemic swine flu strain --
and influenza B. So far, the vaccines manufactured for this season appear to be
a good match, health officials said.
About 120 million doses of flu
vaccine are available this year, Frieden said. About 112 million people have
received their flu shots so far, officials said.
The key to avoiding the flu is
getting the shot, the experts said.
"We are particularly
encouraging people who haven't gotten vaccinated to do it," said Dr. Melinda
Wharton, acting director of the CDC's Center for Immunization and Respiratory
Wednesday, December 4 2013 10:20 AM EST2013-12-04 15:20:11 GMT
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