Posts Tagged ‘influenza’

Florida Flu Cases on the Rise in 2019

January 6th, 2020

With the peak of flu season upcoming, it’s important to look back at beginning of the 2019-2020 flu season, as the number of people catching influenza is already outpacing what physicians have seen in the past.

According to the Florida Department of Health, 16 outbreaks were reported during the week of Nov. 23, up from nine the week before. Of those, nine were confirmed influenza, while seven were illness with flu-like symptoms. Six counties – Hillsborough, Pinellas, Miami-Dade, Collier, Lake and Escambia – reported five or more new cases that week.

Schools across the Sunshine State have been the hardest hit this year, unlike previous seasons where facilities serving older adults reported more cases.

Overall infection rates remain mild in most Florida counties, however. The predominant strain so far has been B Victoria, which has symptoms that mimic Strain A. However, unlike strain A, influenza B is contracted only by humans. This allows strain A to spread faster than B, which makes a pandemic less likely.

A prevalence of strain B early in the season is rare, and it could mean that folks are in for a second wave caused by stain A. Last year, a second wave hit and extended the flu season through spring. The last time that strain B dominated nationally was during the 1992-93 season. However, experts say the 2019-20 season appears to pose less of a threat.

“Overall, this season has not been as scary. Of course, it’s still early,’’ Ogbonnaya Omenka, assistant professor and public health specialist at Butler University told USA Today. “So far, different health departments have been able to contain it in ways that have allowed us not to have some type of significant outbreak or problem.’’

Nationally, activity continues to increase but the amount of activity and flu strains vary by region. Also, four of 10 regions in the United States were at or above their baselines in the number of visits to outpatient providers, with 2.9 percent of all visits reported as flu-like illnesses. That’s up from 2.4 percent reported during each of the past three weeks, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The flu has already killed five pediatric patients this season.

As for this year’s vaccine, it’s still too soon to determine its effectiveness. However, the fact that World Health Organization changed the strains for the upcoming season in the Southern Hemisphere may indicate what one epidemiologist described as “a mismatch.”

That said, a vaccine still gives you better odds that you would get in Vegas and are still available in most areas. Health care providers say it’s never too late to get one. In addition to a vaccine, other ways of preventing the spread of flu are to avoid being around people who are sick, stay home when you are sick, cover coughs and sneezes with your elbow, and of course, regular handwashing. Here are tips on proper handwashing techniques.

Flu Review 2018

February 14th, 2018

Here’s some advice. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, get one. The 2017-2018 flu season is turning out to be a real monster, and it isn’t close to over yet. In fact, we’re only about halfway through the season.Flu Review 2018

In general, flu season starts getting worse in October, then peaks between December and February. The latest data show this year’s season has not yet peaked, and many more weeks of serious flu activity are expected.

One of things making this flu season so harsh is that the main bug in this year’s viral combination is the particularly nasty H3N2 influenza A strain. This year, it’s combined with another influenza A virus and two influenza B viruses. The H3N2 is known to cause serious seasonal flu epidemics. H3N2 is the most dangerous of the flu strains this flu season.

According to Daniel Jernigan of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Of the viruses we hate, we hate H3N2 more than the other ones.” They hate it because it’s able to adapt rapidly in order to evade the efforts of the immune system, the body’s natural germ-fighting force.

This year’s flu season is one of the worst in years. The CDC reports that as of the beginning of February, infection rates were higher this year than any year since the swine flu hit in 2009. In addition, the number of people being admitted to hospitals due to the flu is the highest they’ve ever recorded at this point in a season.

Currently, there have been more people admitted to hospitals than were admitted during what was a horrendous flu season in 2014-2015. That year, 710,000 Americans went to the hospital, and 56,000 people lost their lives as a complication of the flu.

Many people are being hospitalized, but what about those who don’t get that bad. The CDC releases statistics on the flu weekly. The most recent report indicated the percentage of people going to their doctors with flu symptoms is 7.1 percent. That’s an increase over the previous week, which was 6.5 percent.

Flu symptoms can be different in each person, but there are a few symptoms that are pretty common signals you’ve got the bug. These include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body/muscle aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may get diarrhea or start vomiting.

For most, otherwise healthy people, the virus will run its course in a few days without treatment other than managing the symptoms. For others, especially the elderly, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart or lung disease, the flu can be a serious proposition requiring treatment with anti-viral medications. This year, Baby Boomers are getting hit hard by the flu, but health officials aren’t sure why.

As of February 5, the CDC rated the flu as widespread in 48 states. Hawaii and Oregon were the only states reporting activity that rated lower than the widespread designation. Also, as of that date, 53 children have died from the flu. It’s not been reported how many adult deaths there have been thus far.

Flu kills by compromising the immune system or using it against you. When a virus enters the body, the immune system sends out special cells to find and kill it. Inflammation occurs as part of this process, but inflammation can keep oxygen from reaching the tissues in the organs. In the lungs, it can affect the blood vessels where oxygen transfer is done, leading to pneumonia. That can be deadly in anyone, but especially in older adults and those with heart or lung disease.

The flu can kill in other ways, too. If inflammation affects several organs, it can lead to body-wide inflammation, or sepsis, which can cause multiple organ failure and death. In addition, the energy needed for the initial reaction to battle the virus takes a toll on and weakens the immune system. This makes the body more susceptible to other infections that can lead to death.

Prevention is your best weapon against the flu, and that includes getting a flu shot. You may think it’s too late or think this year’s flu shot won’t protect you, but do it anyway. Remember, we’ve still got a long way to go before this flu season is over, so don’t put off getting the flu vaccine any longer.

The H3N2 strain tends to be resistant to vaccines, but health officials don’t know how effective this year’s vaccine is against this year’s version of the bug. They won’t know until the flu stops spreading. Keep in mind, though, there are also the three other strains of viruses in this season’s combination. They can also make you sick, and the flu shot protects you against those, as well. It doesn’t guarantee you won’t get sick, but it helps.

There are a few additional things you can do to help prevent the flu or stop the spread of it. One of the most important is to wash your hands frequently and thoroughly. And if you do have symptoms, stay put at home. Don’t go out, and stay home from work or school to keep from giving the virus to someone else.

Also, clean surfaces you touch regularly. This includes common things like doorknobs and the TV remote, especially if you stay home and park in front of the TV while you’re sick. Keep your tooth brush separated from those of the other people in your house, and wash the sheets and blankets on your bed frequently.

Your best bet against this virus? Use common sense – and get a flu shot.

Page 1 of 1