The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has confirmed that the influenza (flu) virus is spreading at an alarming rate and has already hit 29 states. Confirming that the virus has already claimed the lives of 11 children, they are predicting a nasty flu season ahead. Largely because the flu vaccine this year will not be as effective this year as in the past, as reported earlier.
Health experts also agree that the decreased potency of the flu vaccine to deal with the virus is one of the reasons behind the outbreak. The vaccine this year does not provide protection for H3N2, the strain of the influenza that’s currently making the rounds. This year’s vaccine does help protect against H1N1 and one or two strains of influenza B.
Flu outbreaks in the recent days have forced schools in North Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Georgia to close, as the number of states under the grip of the deadly virus has doubled over the last one week. the CDC confirmed that most of those hospitalized because of influenza were either too old or too young (weak immune systems).
“This year, we have potential for a severe flu season. But whether it will prove to be a bigger clinical problem than usual, only time will tell. We have to be prepared for a bad flu season every year,” said Dr. Jonathan Blum, an infectious disease specialist at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara.
The virus was seen to be getting in most parts of the U.S. by Friday, although California has not yet been gripped by it. Blum said Kaiser doctors are seeing “occasional” confirmed flu cases, but numbers of cases are still very low.
“With the flu vaccine not being as effective as in previous years, we have to rely more on hand washing and other ways to prevent infections. Flu cases might go down as people are traveling around the country in the next few weeks, but they could go back up once everyone returns,” Zachary Thompson, the health department’s director from Dallas.
Influenza or flu is a contagious disease caused by the flu virus. The disease of the respiratory tract can cause mild to severe illness and, in extreme cases, even lead to death. It is not the same as a common cold. One or more of the following symptoms might be seen in flu patients: Sore throat, cough, running or stuffy nose, feverish chills with or without fever, headache, muscle aches, fatigue, diarrhea (more common among children).
The CDC has suggested people showing flu symptoms to contact their doctor without losing any time. They have also mentioned that two prescription antiviral drugs, Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir), can help bring down the time of acute illness by two days if taken in time.