Flu season has started early and could be bad, according to a statement by health officials on Monday, who added that suspected flu cases have jumped in five Southern states.
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stated that the primary strain circulating so far this year tends to make people sicker than other types of the flu, reports The Washington Post. Frieden stated:
“It looks like it’s shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell.”
Frieden also added that the nation appears to be fairly well prepared for the impending flu season, because more than one-third of Americans have been vaccinated and the vaccine formula appears to be well-matched to the strains seen so far this season.
An uptick of flu cases like those seen in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Texas isn’t usually seen until after Christmas. Hospitals have also seen a higher than normal rate of flu-related hospitalizations, noting that there have already been two flu-related deaths in children.
ABC News notes that the flu season’s most prevalent strain has been H3N2 — a strain that is known to cause more severe illness. This strain was also the predominant subtype in the 2003-2004 season, which is the last time the flu arrived this early. Dr. Melinda Wharton, acting director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, states that about 112 million US citizens have already received the annual flu shot.
Frieden added that, while vaccination rates are on the rise, more needs to be done, because only 37 percent of Americans eligible for the vaccine end up getting it. The CDC continues to encourage people to get vaccinated before the rates of infection rise even further during this year’s potentially bad flu season.
[Image from ShutterStock]