It is that most wonderful time of the year. People are coughing, sniffling, sneezing, and feverish. The flu has hit the country yet again and this time it is an epidemic. The new strain that has struck the US has reached proportions that the CDC is calling epidemic. There have been at least 15 children who have died as a result of this particular strain in the last few months. Data has been collected from 121 cities around the country and from that data officials have determined that 6.8% of the deaths were due to influenza and pneumonia. There has also been an enormous number of patients that have been hospitalized for the flu. Over 2,600 people have been admitted. Out of this number over 38% were elderly patients (over age 65). Pediatric patients (ages 0-4) made up 13.4%. The Midwest region of the country and the Southern states from Texas to the East Coast are reporting the highest levels of infected patients.
A spokesperson from the CDC states that the numbers have been much higher in past seasons and although the numbers so far this season seem high they really aren’t. In 2012-2013 there were 171 pediatric deaths. It fell through the 2013-2014 season where there were 109 deaths. It is still very early in the season and there are still many weeks to go to see how this strain plays out.
Children and the elderly are the people that are hit the hardest by the flu. Pregnant women and people with compromised immune systems are also at a very high risk. One of the biggest problems this year is that the flu vaccine that was given is not proving to be effective against the strain that is going around. The strain that is the most common this season is the H3N2 strain. The vaccine did include this particular strain, but the strain has mutated and so the vaccine is not able to do its job effectively. CDC director Tom Frieden says that getting a flu shot is still your best protection from the flu even though it may not be as effective this year.