A billboard advertising the flu shot is displayed at a Walgreens pharmacy on January 22, 2018 in San Francisco, California. A powerful strain of H3N2 flu has claimed the lives of 74 Californians under the age of 65 since flu season began last October.
Justin Sullivan | beautiful pictures
A variant of the flu that strikes children and the elderly worse than other strains of the virus is dominating the United States right now, leaving the country bracing for a potentially bad flu season.
Public health laboratories detected influenza A(H3N2) in 76% of the more than 3,500 respiratory samples that tested positive for influenza and were analyzed for virus subtypes, according to a report. surveillance report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .
The H3N2 variant has previously been linked to more severe flu seasons for children and the elderly, according to Dr. Jose Romero, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
“There are also early signs of the flu causing severe illness in exactly these two groups of people this season,” Romero told reporters on a call earlier this month.
Influenza hospitalization rates rose to a decade high this season. Overall, about 8 people per 100,000 people are currently hospitalized with the flu, but the elderly and young children are hit much harder than other age groups, according to CDC data.
The hospitalization rate for seniors is more than double that of the general population at 18 per 100,000. For children under five, the hospitalization rate is about 13 per 100,000.
At least 4.4 million people have contracted the flu, 38,000 have been hospitalized and 2,100 have died since the season began. Seven children have died from the flu so far this season.
“When we have more H3N2, we often have a more severe flu season – longer duration, more variety,” said Dr. Andi Shane, pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Children’s Healthcare Atlanta. More children are affected, more children are seriously ill.”
Shane said the other influenza A variant, H1N1, is typically associated with less severe seasons than H3N2. According to the CDC, H1N1 accounted for about 22% of samples that tested positive for influenza and was analyzed for a subtype.
According to the CDC, the percentage of patients reporting flu-like symptoms, a fever of 100 degrees or higher plus a sore throat or cough, was highest in Virginia, Tennessee, South Carolina, Alabama and Washington DC.
According to the CDC, respiratory illnesses are also very high in Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and Texas.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot. Children younger than 8 years old who are vaccinated for the first time should get two doses for the best protection.
According to the CDC, flu vaccines are typically 40% to 60% effective at preventing illness, but people who remain sick are less likely to be hospitalized or die.
Public health officials are also encouraging people to stay home when they are sick, cover their coughs and sneezes, and wash their hands often. Those wishing to take additional precautions may consider wearing a mask indoors in public.