Flu Season Still Far from Over

We are now nearing the end of February and yet there is not end on sight with the flu season. There are reports of flu activity declining but these are in the east where the flu season started. The flu activity on the west is still up and is expected to peak by early March. That means that this year’s flu season is much longer than expected.

The CDC was able to record 22 states with influenza activity that is widespread during February 10 to 16. That is about 44 percent of the entire United States. So it is logically to conclude that the flu season is still at large despite the CDC claiming that it is nearing its end. It is expected though since flu seasons in the US usually end by February. But since it started out earlier this time (December instead of January) we may as well expect it to last longer.

The experience also lead to the discovery on how ineffective are the flu shots on the elderly. This makes matters worst since a lot of elderly did not expect the flu vaccines to fail so miserably. The flu shot given to individuals 65 years old and above was observed to be effective to only 9% of the total recipients. This is a huge concern since the elderly usually suffer more during flu seasons. The vaccines were developed based on the information gathered during the flu season last 2012. It seems the information is obsolete when formulating a vaccine for the elderly.

Pediatric death toll continues to rise. The latest number of deaths for since February 2 was 14. There is still not reports if whether these children were vaccinated or not. Even so, it is best to not just rely on the flu shot. Maintain a kin eye on any signs of flu on your kids. Early detection is very important since the flu vaccine does not guarantee a 100 percent protection to the virus. The current statistics shows that it is only 62% effective against the flu virus strand this flu season.

For the elderly (individuals 65 years old and up), the efficacy is even below 10%. And this caused several lives already. The elderly are more susceptible to the flu virus and they are more likely to die from complications from the disease. Based on the number of deaths it is possible that the false sense of safety brought by the flu shots contributed to it. To the elderly, the flu shots were a waste of time and a gamble that was not worthwhile. It even made them complacent when they should have been vigilant in protecting themselves from the virus.

Detection of the flu virus within 48 hours is strongly recommended for early treatment that greatly helps in dealing with the disease. This would have been the key in preventing the number of deaths. The sad part is that the CDC and other media sources placed too much emphasis on the flu shots. A lot of people thought that it would be enough and did not expect that the vaccine has a chance of failing by almost 40 percent. That is a very high margin for failure for a drug that is supposed to protect us from a very common yet deadly virus.

Pregnant women should start protecting themselves from exposure. The flu shot is proven safe for them but due to the efficacy issue it is best for them to remain healthy and maintain proper hygiene like proper cleaning of hands and wearing face masks when going out. Eating healthy will also help strengthen the immune system.

SARS-like virus in this flu season

The US is also currently in the lookout for any signs that the dreaded SARS-like flu observed in the UK and has died from it. A total of 6 people have died from the said virus in the world. This was verified last February 13. There is still no recorded incident of such a virus affecting anyone in the US but the CDC remains vigilant. There are about 12 people who have contracted the virus worldwide and 6 of these people have died. That is a 50 percent mortality rate for a flu virus.

This new SARS-like flu virus could spell an extension to the US flu season and could lead to more deaths. CDC is already expecting the worst case scenario and is preparing for it. The death toll would be far worse in the US if this new flu virus hits the nation.

The total death now is 78 based on recorded incidents. The death toll among children is now 59. But the CDC expects the numbers to be higher when flu season finally ends. The department is still reluctant to make an estimate so make way for accurate counts.

Is Flu Being Hyped To Unnecessary Levels?

It’s already February, but it’s still cold and dreary – still the perfect time for influenza virus to strike, and for the mainstream media to grab the opportunity and scare people of its harm, causing us to rush in our supermarkets and buy excessive hand sanitizers.

In the past couple of years, we can recall the bird flu and the world-famous H1N1, formerly known as swine flu, and caused a lot of trouble for pigs simply because of media’s hype and public’s misconception. These viruses were highly contagious, something we’ve always tried to avoid – well – just like a plague. Each year, we see dramatic outbreak of flu virus, and this year was no different, as a matter of fact, it’s the earliest season in nearly a decade. For this flu season, the Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) said that, the media frenzy behind the outbreak seems just some of those years.

Awareness about the flu virus is indeed, very important for public health. The young ones and the elderly are amongst the most vulnerable from these risks. Nobody wants to get sick, it compromises our busy and fast-paced 21st century lives. Thus, it is only reasonable that we want to know the truth behind the threat.

However, it is also very important that we keep our emotions in check and things in perspective. If we become sick from the flu virus, then it’s going to happen, and we can’t save ourselves even by bathing in Purell. What most people fail to realize is that, when one gets sick and he or she is normally healthy, then it’s important that he or she
should be sick – meaning, one should let the virus run its course and help the immune system fight and beat the virus from inside. The most bothersome thing about flu is people walking around carrying and spreading the virus, like a classmate or coworker arriving in the morning and announcing in a nasal voice of having the virus. Flu is highly contagious, and it’s an airborne virus that circulates in an enclosed room. We all don’t want to be around someone with the virus, nor inside a room with a person infected by it. The best thing you can do to yourself and the people around you when you get affected is to stay at home, get some rest, and drink a lot of fluids and healthy foods to help the body recover fast. Call your office or your teacher about your situation, and everyone wins.

In the early weeks of January in light of the flu outbreak, which peaked significantly earlier than usual (that’s according to CDC), there has been an increased demand for flu vaccines. The vaccine is said to protect us from the virus 100% – and this is simply another hype the mainstream media taught us. To tell you frankly, the CDC conducted
a study about the efficacy of the vaccines to protect us from the virus in 2011 – 2012 season. The result shows the vaccine can only protect us by 50%. Meaning, though it certainly doesn’t hurt to get vaccinated, it is not the sole solution against the problem, and there’s still no guarantee.

The reason behind this rating of efficacy is that, the virus circulating doesn’t always match the vaccine 100%. Though the CDC and health experts are doing their best to protect the public through vaccination, the strain of the virus circulating varies year after year. For this year however, the vaccine is a pretty good much for the strain of virus circulating.

Bloomberg reported in January that, this year’s inoculation accounts to about 62% of vaccine efficacy. That’s a whopping 12% increase from the usually 50% protection.

However, to be safe, one should never be surprised if he or she still gets sore throat and sniffles even after the vaccination at some point this winter. Even if the vaccine doesn’t stop the sickness entirely, some stubborn symptoms may still appear, and can be a lot less severe.

The flu vaccine takes almost 2 weeks to take in effect, thus, it’s very important to take it for what its worth. While waiting for it to kick in, the best thing you can do to safeguard yourself from the virus is to keep your body clean, wash your hands often, get enough sleep, and keep a healthy lifestyle.

Flu Cases Decline but Mortality Rate in Kids Up

The spread of the flu virus in some parts of the United States caused alarm amongst the local health officials. However, the CDC director has noted that the spread has somewhat slowed down in some parts of the country and officials are hoping that the decline will continue until they have completely regained control of the situation.

About 24 states in the US, including New York, had been reported to have experienced high level of the flu activity. This report came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as part of their regular update on flu activity, which spans between the last week of December and first few weeks of January 2013. In comparison to an earlier report, this means that it is 5 less number of states that are still battling the repercussions of flu activity.

The far West Coast, as noted by Dr. Joseph Bresee of the Influenza Division at CDC, is the only part of the US that is relatively unaffected by the flu spread. The most troubling part of the report concerning the monitoring of flu cases in the country would have to be the number of pediatric deaths resulting from it. In fact, there was an increase of two when compared to previous data.

Reports indicate that 20 of those that had been confirmed death by flu were below the age of 18. This data was gathered since the onset of the flu outbreak in the US. The data for the adult deaths relating to the flu is not conclusive as of the moment, but if some of the local authorities data were to be used as basis, this number could be somewhere near a dozen.

The activity map outlined by the CDC helps to pinpoint exactly where the main focus of the flu activity is, which is also crucial in leading health authorities in terms of focusing their efforts on prevention and recovery. The map shows that the Southeast of the United States is largely affected by the flu outbreak, which includes the following states: Florida, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and South Carolina. New York, along with some other Northeastern states, were also largely affected by the flu spread. On the flip side, states like Hawaii, Mississippi and California shows no signs of flu activity.

The CDC clarifies to the citizens that a state is only tagged as having experienced “widespread” flu activity when more than half of the geographic region is affected. But because this time of year is dubbed as “flu season”, local and national health officials expect flu activity to increase. The fact that influenza activity follows an up and down trend also makes it difficult to make conclusive statements as to the real state of the flu activity in the nation, as well as the affected areas. Close monitoring is required to ensure that the situation is under control.

Officials have promised to closely monitor the situation in the next couple of weeks as part of the Flu 2013 prevention movement. They will determine by then if the flu season has peaked or will continue to see its peak in the coming weeks.

According to Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the “[flu epidemic] is still on the upstick.”

One of the reasons why flu 2013 activity had been more serious than it was a few years ago is the fact that flu season came in early this year. Also, the severity of the cases had been increased from last year. This is evident in the city of Boston wherein the city mayor Thomas Menino had said, “this is the worst flu season we’ve seen since 2009, and people should take the threat of flu seriously.”

Right now, health officials within the affected states are joining their efforts in spreading more information about the symptoms of flu. Their focus is directed towards limiting the mortality rate, especially the cases of pediatric deaths.

Flu 2013: Flu Update in Europe as of January 2013

On the second and third week of this year, the flu activity continued to rise in some parts of the northern hemisphere, and remained sporadic in the southern hemisphere. The A (H3N2) flu virus is pretty much a very dominant strain, which is then followed by the influenza B and even the A (H1N1) pdm09 viruses.

Influenza Activity in Europe
Flu activity in Europe has increased in variable proportion as the virus circulates throughout the region. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has seen increase in A(H1N1)pdm09 virus cases, this is from the central and eastern European region. A predominant strain (influenza B virus) were reported in few countries, while some countries also reports A(H3N2) viruses predominated

The flu virus is spreading across European region, from west to east, affecting at least 10 countries in the region, and report shows that numbers are still growing. Right now, there’s a widespread activity in the west and north, while sporadic to no activities in the east. The same way it did in flu season 2011/2012, the strains A(H1N1)pdm09, A(H3N2) and type B are showing signs of circulation, but they’re normally just mild cases. However, many elderly individuals with underlying health conditions have been affected severely by the virus, while fatalities have been recorded in younger patients.

As usual, in winter season, health care authorities all across Europe have warned citizens to prepare for an increase in cases of various respiratory conditions for both outpatient and hospitals all across the region.

Right now, at least 16 European countries have reported cases of influenza virus activity, much of these countries are in the northwestern part of the continent; this is according to the latest weekly surveillance report from the ECDC in Stockholm.

Data shows that the hardest hit of the virus is Norway. So far though, it’s the only nation in the continent that reports “high intensity” of fly transmission. A couple of weeks ago, about 12 countries, including France, Ireland and Germany, have reported moderate increase in the level of cases the last weeks of 2012, ECDC said.

Like in the United States, flu in Europe arrived very early this season. But experts say that although the flu activity is increasing, they don’t see it as worse than normal.

So far, 239 people have been hospitalized and were confirmed through lab tests as flu patients, this number is obviously expected to grow. It may be lower than the actual number of cases, since many people have had the virus didn’t end up in hospitals. Also, reports said there were two confirmed fatalities of the flue.

In US, the epidemic has stretched drastically, affecting 47 states and killing 20 children this season. However, the kind of strain circulating in Europe to day is different. The US’s predominant flu virus strain is Type A, while the predominant strain in Europe is Type B, which has 2 different sub-types. According to the new report, this season’s vaccine is better suited to the viruses circulating in Europe.

“The virological match with the strains in the current seasonal influenza vaccine is considered good,” the authors wrote.

But at the same time, parts of Europe are being gripped by norovirus, the severe gastrointestinal illness that also has spread across the United States and Canada.

In UK, the Health Protection Agency said that more than 3,800 cases have been confirmed through testing so far, that’s 70% increase over this time a year ago. Since many people have chosen to avoid going to hospitals, they experienced other symptoms through retching, such as acute diarrhea, and other sickness symptoms at home. Thus, it is believed that the true number of sickness is higher than the reported digits.

Flu Virus Still Getting Strong In Western States

What is considered as the worst flu season in recent history is still flexing its muscle in Western States.

Out of the 24 states that reported high number of influenza-like conditions (ILI), 19 were around the Mississippi River during the first four weeks of the year, ending 26th of January. This is according to “Flu View” 2012-13 flu season report released on Friday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In the last days of 2012, 18 and 29 states reported elevated cases of ILI, lay east of Mississippi.

The migration of the flu virus from east to west is an enduring pattern according to the CDC.

Though there’s been a decrease of percentage of outpatient visits throughout the country, it rose abruptly in the fourth week of 2013, affecting 8 Western states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. The rate also took a step slightly higher in Midwestern states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

According to the Flu View report, the ILI rate for the fourth week of this year, across the country, is at 4.2%. That’s slightly lower from week three though. This is also a sign of decrease, as the rate went as high as 5.6% in the last week of 2012.

Another key factor for flu activity is the number of respiratory specimens that was tested positive for the virus, which also continued its gradual drop from 26.1% in third week of this year, to 25.5% on the fourth week of 2013. Furthermore, the number of states reporting widespread influenza fell to 42.

Children and Seniors Face Special Threat As Flu Grows Acute in 48 States

One of the biggest headlines about this flu season is the new strain that particularly affects children and seniors, which has already expanded throughout 40 states this year.

Though the dominant strain varies depending on the region, the H3N2 A is the prevalent strain this flu season, and its patient is mostly children and the elderly. The US CDC reported a total of 8.3% deaths in over 122 cities across the country of both flu and pneumonia (the usual consequence of the virus) – this is 1.1% above the standard used to categorize flu epidemics.

Based on the statistics collected from 1976 to 2006, there’s an average of 36,000 deaths in a usual flu season, where the number of fatalities ranges from 3,000 to 49,000 each year. From this group, almost 90% deaths are among adults, particularly 65 years old and up.

Likely, almost 50% of hospitalization from this age group, and for this year in particular, the data shows to be higher than normal.

Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, from the CDC, said that – “Last week hospitalization rates increased sharply in people 65 and over, and this week hospitalization rates for people 65 and over increased sharply again — to 82 per 100,000, which is really quite a high rate.”

The flu virus has been common in the South and Southeast for as early as November, which is far earlier than the common flu season, which usually peaks during January and early-February. Also, experts warn that, this year’s flu season is far from over.

Frieden said “we are in the middle of flu season, about halfway through, and it’s shaping up to be a worse-than-average season and a bad season, particularly, for the elderly.”

Despite of maxing out in some regions across the country, the H3N2 flu strain is still quite severe and common. Experts say the virus is even growing worse in some other parts of the country.

Influenza vaccine, which is still widely available despite the advancement of the outbreak, still provides the best protection against flu and flu-related conditions. Despite its shortages in particular parts of the country – only 129 million doses from the distributed 135 million – flu shot makers say they can increase the production to about 149 million vaccines to meet the growing demand.