Flu Cases are on the Rise in the USA

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this year’s flu vaccine may not be as strong as originally believed or hoped. Four specific strains of influenza were the intended target, but unfortunately, they do not match the flu strains prevalent in the Southern Hemisphere, including influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B (Victoria).

As a result of this discrepancy, the two flu strains from the Southern Hemisphere have made their way to the southern part of the United States. They have appeared in areas such as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Puerto Rico, South Carolina and Texas. While the start of the 2019 flu season has been slow in the majority of the country, the number of cases of the flu are on the rise.

According to the weekly flu report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), since Friday, November 15th, three babies have died as a result of the flu. Additionally, around 2.3 percent of all doctor’s visits were due to flu-like symptoms. This is just slightly lower than the national number of 2.4 percent. Overall, 4.9 percent of deaths during this time were due to the flu and pneumonia, which is also below the epidemic average of 6 percent in the US.

A spokeswoman for the CDC reported that the flu is increasing throughout the country, but that some areas are getting an early flu season while others are seeing very little instances of flu.

Flu Strains Going Around This Season

Experts say that it’s too early to predict how the flu is going to spread this year and where. However, an expert from Yale Medicine stated that the flu has a significant impact even during a typical flu season.

Generally, the flu season peaks around February, but instances have been increasing throughout the country. At this time in the United States, the following strains are most prevalent:

  • Influenza A, also known as H3N2, went around during the last half of last year’s flu season
  • Influenza B, also known as Victoria, first hit the Southern Hemisphere
  • H1N1, which is common during this time of year

According to a doctor from Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, these flu strains result in similar symptoms, which include body aches, chills, cough and fever. Influenza B is known for causing typical flu-like symptoms but can also lead to more serious cases.

How Does the Current Season Differ from Last Year’s?

According to the CDC, last year’s flu season was on the moderate side and activity didn’t begin to pick up speed until November. From there, it peaked around February but continued into April, which made it the longest flu season in about a decade.

Last year during this time, the most commonly reported flu type was Influenza A, which is not unusual. This year, however, there are more instances of Influenza B. Anything can change at any time.

Last year, by the middle of November, only one pediatric death was reported. At the same time, around 1.9 percent of hospital visits were due to the flu, a lower rate than what is currently being seen.

You Need to Get the Flu Vaccine

Even if these predictions about flu season turn out to be inaccurate, it is still absolutely essential to get the flu shot. According to the CDC, flu season is now here and more cases of illness will appear, including those that will be severe. People can search for places in their local area to get the vaccine at Vaccinefinder.org.

While there may be mismatches with the flu vaccine that can lead to more instances of the illness, getting the shot can still keep symptoms milder.

According to an emergency medicine doctor at Stanford Health Care, around 60 percent of the flu instances he’s seen are Influenza B, the majority of which is not covered by the shot. He stressed that regardless, the flu vaccine is still the best way to prevent getting sick with the flu and that even in cases where a person gets the flu, the shot can prevent severe illness.

In addition, the flu vaccine can help to lower the risk of flu complications, such as pneumonia and the need to be hospitalized.

The best way to protect yourself from getting sick is to frequently wash your hands with water and soap and stay at least six feet away from anyone who’s coughing or obviously ill.

The Bottom Line

While this year’s flu vaccine might miss certain strains of the flu that are currently circulating throughout the country, this year’s flu season has seen a slower start. Most of the United States has seen minor activity while the Southwest and Southeastern states are experiencing moderate flu activity.

According to flu experts, it is still too early to detect how this year’s flu season will proceed and progress. However, they all agree that even if there is a mismatch with this year’s flu vaccine, getting a flu shot will still help to minimize your symptoms even if you do get sick.