The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, the first time in the 13 years of the current tracking system that that has happened, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Officials said that this flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst in recent years.

The rate of flu hospitalizations — the number of people hospitalized with flu per 100,000 — rose sharply last week compared with the previous week. Last week it was 22.7 per 100,000 people; the week before that rate was 13.7.

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At the peak of the 2014-15 season, one of the two most severe seasons in the last 15 years or so, 29.9 people out of every 100,000 were hospitalized for flu.

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The latest data — for the week ending Jan. 6 — suggest the season may be peaking right now, the CDC’s director, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, told reporters Friday. But she warned that many more people will be infected before the season is over.

There’s a difference between an active flu season — when a large number of people get sick — and a severe season, when the numbers of people hospitalized for flu or who die from the infection are unusually high.

It can be hard to tell in real time where a flu season will fall on the severity scale, because sometimes reports of influenza hospitalization and deaths — especially deaths among children — lag.

That said, this year is starting to look like a severe season, and maybe more severe than last year, which was also bad, said Dr. Dan Jernigan, head of CDC’s influenza division.

“There’s lots of flu in lots of places,” he said.

So far, Jernigan said, this year’s season doesn’t appear to be quite as bad as 2014-15.

The influenza A virus H3N2 has caused the lion’s share of the illness in most parts of the country this year.

But recently there’s been an uptick in activity by another influenza A virus, H1N1, Jernigan said, warning that even if the season appears to have peaked, flu viruses will circulate for weeks to come and people should continue to take precautions against getting infected.

Jernigan said that people over the age of 65 are being hospitalized for flu this season more than any other population. Even people age 50 to 64 are being hospitalized in high numbers.

Flu often hits the ends of the age spectrum more than the middle, and that’s the case this year as well. The CDC reported seven more children have died from flu, bringing the season total to 20 so far. While tragic, that number is low in comparison with other years — 110 last year, 92 in 2015-2016. But if other seasons are a gauge, that grim tally may continue to rise in coming weeks.

Officials feared that the flu vaccine may not work particularly well this season, but it appears to be faring slightly better than expected.

Preliminary testing by the CDC suggests the vaccine is probably more protective than it was in Australia during its 2017 winter. The Australian interim estimate suggested the H3N2 component of the vaccine — and H3N2 was the main virus there during their most recent winter — was only about 10 percent effective.

That means if 100 people got the flu shot and all were exposed to H3N2 viruses, only 10 would have been protected.

Jernigan said it looks more like the H3N2 portion of the vaccine is performing here like it did last year, when it was 34 percent effective at preventing infection. Unfortunately, that’s about on par for the flu shot’s H3N2 component, which is the weak link of flu vaccine.

The CDC should have interim data on the question of the vaccine’s effectiveness in the second half of February.

  • I don’t believe all the numbers. My local ER is diagnosing the Flu without taking a swab. What are they psychic?

  • lets keep bring the third worlders into this nation and maybe we can all die….this strain of the flu started in southern mexico, but no talk of this from the CDC.

  • Let’s look OBJECTIVELY at this sillyness, shall we? It states : “The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, the first time in the 13 years of the current tracking system that that has happened..”
    Number of people this week hospitalized with flu: 22.7 out of 100,000.
    22.7, lets express this as a percentage, shall we, and see if the sentence sounds as ominous…
    “The entire continental United States is experiencing widespread flu right now, with 0.0227% of the population hospitalized.”
    Not 1%, not 1/10th of 1%, two hundredths of 1 percent. If someone came up to you and said “Hey, man, two hundredths of a percent of people are being hospitalized with flu!”
    You’d probably say something like “So, in a room with 100 people…nobody is probably sick? A room with 2270 people, one of them might be sick? Pffft, get out of my face, this is a non event.”
    Because that’s what this is. A non-event. A sensationalist piece of claptrap.

    • Hey pal, it’s not the percentage or even the absolute numbers of flu hospitalizations but the potential for those cases to develop things you probably never heard of, like postinfluenzal staph or strep pneumonia, which can fucking KILL you.

      Go back to playing with your slide rule.

    • I don’t believe all the numbers. My local ER is diagnosing the Flu without taking a swab. What are they psychic?

  • Influenza is a respiratory virus. “Stomach flu” is a misnomer. GI symptoms as you described are often caused by viral gastroenteritis, which is not related to the flu virus.

    A flu epidemic can actually be catastrophic. Ever heard of the Spamish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide? Flu is no joke, particularly in geriatric and pediatric populations, or those with any sort of respiratory compromise.

  • The ONLY flu that is REALLY harmful is the stomach flu making the rounds. A person can get dehydrated pretty fast if they don’t replace fluids constantly. As for the other flu…we’ve had flu as long as there has been humans. The media like to gin up catastrophe stories. And then people respond by going to the hospital when they could have ridden the flu out at home.

    • Influenza is a respiratory virus. “Stomach flu” is a misnomer. GI symptoms as you described are often caused by viral gastroenteritis, which is not related to the flu virus.

      A flu epidemic can actually be catastrophic. Ever heard of the Spamish flu, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide? Flu is no joke, particularly in geriatric and pediatric populations, or those with any sort of respiratory compromise.

    • Viral gastroenteritis (stomach flu) is generally the benign, self-limited disease. Dehydration can usually be averted because a patient can keep up with fluids orally before life threatening volume losses occur. The flu is also rather benign for most people, but the fatality rate is much higher, especially for the chronically ill, the very old and very young, and those who are pregnant. Every generation there is a mammoth flu pandemic, which we cannot predict when it will strike. The one in 1918 KILLED at least 50 million people worldwide. Show me a GI virus that can do that.

  • I call bullsh*t. This is just another plug for flu vaccines which the CDC acknowledged last year are actually ineffective, and may do more harm than good. Like every other year, they aren’t even testing if it’s actually other URTI viruses or pneumonia viruses that people are dying from because they just lump this all into the “flu” category. Don’t be duped by this propaganda if you are an intelligent human being. Do your research, eat a healthy diet, get lots of rest, and optimize your vitamin D levels to at least 70 ng/mL, and you are highly unlikely to get the flu. If you do happen to still get the flu, then most people are sick 1-2 weeks and will recover no problem. That’s why we have immune systems, and flu vaccines will actually damage yours. Plus, not to mention, they guess the strain a year in advance and they usually guess wrong, rendering an already ineffective vaccine, utterly useless.

    • Funny how The Awakened Ones post a lot of good info, yet the ‘rebuts’ to your comment will be:

      “Tin Foil hat”
      “Drudgehead”
      “CT”
      “Alex Jones”

      etc.

      Keep up the fight. If you make only 1 person ‘think’, that’s 1 more.

      (As to my original comment, which is at the top, I wonder if any of my family is re-thinking their love of vaccines, now that THEY ALL GOT THE FLU, but yelled at me for NOT getting it – when I was the only one not shot.)

    • This is misinformation in its basest form. You just got on a high and mighty soap box–made of sawdust. Show me the data to show that keeping vit D levels at that level helps prevent flu? Without data, then it’s speculation. Also in the arena of gross ignorance is your comment about the ineffectiveness. That was a comment about the nasal, live attenuated vaccine, which was not administered this year. There’s no need to test for other respiratory viruses when the flu virus is positive on antigen testing or when the clinical signs all point to influenza. Did you lose your razor, Occam?

    • Pragmatist MD – which MD do you know that will actually take the time within their allotted 5 minutes to perform antigen testing? You are cracking me up! 😀 As if you actually do! As you probably should know, symptoms of other illnesses do overlap, and to be reporting something as flu you and all your MD friends should probably all be doing your due diligence and confirming that in every case. But you don’t do you? Also, perform a simple Google search (no fancy scientific database search engines needed here) and type in vitamin D (or cholecalciferol if you prefer) and influenza peer reviewed study. You will find a plethora of studies that provide you with some well substantiated studies on vitamin D and flu prevention. I’m sorry you won’t make money prescribing $8 vitamin D to your patients instead of injecting poisons into them doc 🙁 How much money do you make per year with your flu vaccination program? Just wondering if you’d be willing to show us some bank records and tax returns to prove no kickbacks.

  • Here’s a thought. Get your flu shot. Wash your hands after touching doorknobs, pens, phones, etc…wash your hands more than you think you should. Cover your face when you sneeze or cough and stay home if you’re sick.
    Common sense can go a long way in preventing infections.

    • Getting g a flu vaccine isn’t common sense, it’s stupid. I agree with you on the other things though because there’s actual proof with basic hygiene measures to prevent illness.

    • I’ll take my chances with a strong immune system. Why would I reduce my natural immune response with a vaccine that has such a low efficacy?

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