According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season 2016 is officially underway. On February 1, the CDC announced flu cases are spreading across the country, and one particular strain, H1N1, is appearing more and more.
While this season has not been nearly as bad as last year, some young and middle-age adults are coming down with very severe cases of influenza. The CDC says some parts of the U.S. are experiencing an above-average activity of the virus and expects cases to increase over the next few weeks.
Many sickened by the virus have been admitted to the intensive care unit, and some have even died. According to the CDC, these people were not vaccinated with this year’s flu shot. Young adults are particularly vulnerable to H1N1, which is the same strain that caused a pandemic in 2009.
The CDC recommends antiviral medications be given to any person suspected to have the flu and said doctors shouldn’t wait for a test to confirm the virus. The treatment should begin as soon as possible, but preferably within 48 hours of becoming sick.
While flu season 2016 has started, some states have only seen a few cases so far. Three states, Arizona, Maryland, and South Carolina, are reporting moderate activity, while Puerto Rico is experiencing high activity.
One indicator that the flu season has started is when the proportion of doctor visits for flu treatment meets or exceeds a national baseline of 2.1 percent. From January 10 to January 16 the baseline was met when approximately 2.1 percent of doctor visits were for people sick with flu-like symptoms.
An average of 1.8 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S. has occurred so far this season. That figure is much lower than the average 36 hospitalizations per 100,000 people this time last year.
In an interesting study done by Tulane University, researchers found that flu deaths actually increased in cities with teams playing in the Super Bowl. Flu statistics going all the way back to 1974 indicated that flu deaths went up 18 percent in cities whose teams played in the game.
Researchers say the increase is most likely caused by Super Bowl parties. Poor hygiene habits, such as sneezing without covering your mouth or double-dipping chips, can quickly and easily spread the virus.
“It’s people that are staying at home and hosting small local gatherings that are actually passing influenza among themselves,” said lead author Charles Stoecker of Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.
The study did not find any increase in flu cases in cities where the Super Bowl is actually played. Since the game is usually held in a city with warmer temperatures, Stoecker believes the environment naturally kept the virus at bay.
In a related Inquisitr report, researchers with the University of California-Davis say the best way to avoid getting the flu is to skip the Super Bowl party altogether and practice “social distancing.” They suggest staying home instead of risking exposure to the virus.
As it is still early in the 2016 season, the CDC plans to continually monitor any hospitalizations and deaths related to the flu.
“CDC will continue to watch for indications of increased severity from influenza virus infection this season,” the agency said.
Generally, the flu is just a temporary inconvenience for most people. Yet, for thousands of Americans, the virus can lead to serious health issues. Health authorities estimate between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from the flu every year.
Experts have named over 200 different strains of influenza virus, and new mutations develop fairly quickly. The CDC makes a prediction every year on which three or four strains are most likely to be a problem during flu season.
For protection against the flu, CDC officials recommend everyone six months and older get vaccinated. The health agency stressed that it is never too late even though the 2016 season has already started.
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