Published: Sat, January 13, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

Flu widespread in the US

Two Houston women in their 60s died late past year after battling the flu, city health officials confirmed.

"We're definitely seeing a lot more cases of flu and definitely more than a year ago", said Lyndy Stone, marketing director for Shannon Medical Center.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) believes the nation is at peak flu season, as the disease is now considered to be an epidemic, based on its medical impact, the federal agency said today. So far this season, there have been 1029 lab-confirmed cases. "If you wash your hands, you have a much lower chance of contracting the flu", said Dr. Whitehead.

While it is showing up a little earlier than other years, Influenza B often produces a milder illness compared to strains of Influenza A, and is covered by this year's flu vaccine. It is not too late.

Though a recent Australian study raised the idea that the vaccine might be only 10 percent effective against this year's flu, he said that estimate does not necessarily apply to the United States, or to other strains of the flu that are circulating.

Already, 26 people died from the flu in North Carolina. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches.

Even though both hospitals are reporting weekly to the state health department, the exact number of cases in San Angelo and the county are not known. Some people get very nauseous and vomit.

In the Houston area, almost 42 percent of emergency room visits for flu-related symptoms have been from children, ages 4 and under.

At this point, 80 percent of reported flu cases are this more severe strain, according to the CDC.

"Alabama is experiencing widespread influenza (flu) activity, and hospitals are at or over normal patient capacity due in large part to the number of patients presenting with seasonal influenza-like symptoms", ADPH said.

Even if you get your flu shot - you're not completely immune to all strains of the virus.

Jernigan characterized the current flu season as "on the severe side", but said it does not appear to be as severe as the 2014/2015 flu season, which was also driven by an H3N2 virus.

Those in high-risk groups, including older adults, pregnant women and children, should be especially cautious in the midst of Dallas County's deadly outbreak, said Dr. Christopher Perkins, the county's medical director.

Experts urge everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot, as it helps reduce the chance of illness from the flu and can also lessen the severity of the symptoms if you do get sick.

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