A late flu outbreak is about to hit hard, CDC warns

A late flu outbreak is about to hit hard, CDC warns

Flu infections are still down compared to the same time previous year.

If you haven't gotten a flu shot, it's not too late, officials said as Kentucky finds itself in the midst of what health professionals are calling an influenza epidemic.

"Influenza can be deadly, especially for those with existing illnesses", said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County public health officer.

No one really knows why flu-related deaths can be higher during seasons of low flu activity, said Dr. Nichole Braxley, the medical director for the emergency room at Mercy San Juan Medical Center, but the statistical contrast has sparked conversations among physicians at her hospital.

This flu season (2018-2019) is not over yet - it lasts from October to May - but the number of reported cases are down from past year. With rising flu activity in the area, one school in the Chicago area reported more than 20% of its students out sick.

"Because flu season can go until April or even May, we continue to monitor influenza activity and will implement masking and visitor restrictions again, if necessary", Stearns said.

For the first time this season, the CDC reported detecting more H3N2 strains than H1N1 strains among influenza A viruses. All other indicators are at expected levels for this time of year. In fact, the Kinsa team said they saw a brief spike in influenza-like illness around January 24 when 5 percent of the population between Sacramento and Modesto experienced influenza-like illness.

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Miller said the majority of flu cases locally and across the state have been caused by the strain 2009 A/H1N1. The strain in the vaccine seems to be much more effective.

DPH said a total of 5,295 influenza positive laboratory tests have been reported during the current season.

"When they looked at children alone, the data showed that children 6 months to 17 years who had been vaccinated against flu reduced their risk of getting flu by more than 62 percent", she said.

Those anxious about the flu or feel that might be at risk, should speak with their doctor about getting the flu shot or other preventative measures. It takes two weeks for immunity to develop. Despite the high body count, it is still less deaths than this time past year. This is particularly important, Braxley said, for individuals in high risk groups such as the elderly; young children; pregnant women; and individuals who have heart disease, lung disease, diabetes or other chronic conditions.

"If you feel yourself getting sick", she said, "go back to the basics: Baby yourself".

The flu vaccine is available at doctors' offices, community clinics, and retail pharmacies. Public Health, Delta and Menominee Counties has administered 1,340 doses of flu vaccine this season. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

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