Flu Season In Full Swing: Multiple States Report High Activity Levels

This year, the flu made its entrance in November

The flu season is well underway, with several states registering high levels of flu activity.

According to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is elevated flu activity in seven states and territories. Louisiana has been experiencing very high number of flu cases, while Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico, and South Carolina also reported high flu activity. The District of Columbia and Puerto Rico also recorded high levels of influenza, with an epidemic declared in the latter.

“We’re off to the races,” Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert, told the Associated Press. Typically the winter flu season begins in December or January. However, last year saw an early start in October. This year, it’s November.

Flu activity is on the rise in several other states, including Arkansas, California, and Maryland, the Associated Press reported.

Tracking people who have the flu relies in part on reports of people with flu-like symptoms who go to doctor’s offices or hospitals. But oftentimes people who have the flu fail to get tested, so their infections aren’t lab-confirmed.

The presence of other respiratory viruses, such as COVID-19, complicates this flu season even more.

Flu viruses can vary, but the dominant strain this year is influenza A H1N1, which typically results in fewer hospitalizations and deaths among the elderly. This fall, the CDC has estimated at least 780,000 flu illnesses, more than 8,000 hospitalizations, and at least 490 flu-related deaths, including one child, Stat reported.

“Really what we’re seeing is a more sharp increase in activity, week over week, and we know from experience when that happens, oftentimes we are entering into that period of even more increased activity,” Alicia Budd, the CDC’s team lead for domestic flu surveillance, told Stat. “It’s a great time for people to get vaccinated if they’ve been holding off.”

African Americans tend to be affected with the flu at higher rates than whites. This is due in part to lower flu vaccination rates in the Black community. During 2021’s flu season, vaccination coverage among white adults was 54% compared with 38% for Hispanics, 41% for Native Americans, and 42% for Blacks, CNBC reported.

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