Every sneeze and cough you hear lately is a reminder that in addition to the holiday season, it’s also flu season. The month of October started out slow for the flu but now as we make our way to 2018, the virus is picking up strength and spreading more quickly.
The Centers for Disease Control released a report Thursday on the status of the flu from data collected between Oct. 1 and Nov. 25. Flu activity has increased since the start of November with most of the cases identified as Influenza A and the most common strain is H3N2. The CDC also said that some activity factors for the virus were also up and higher than they usually are this time of the year.
The good news is that the viruses causing the current cases of the flu are genetically or antigenetically similar to the cell-grown reference viruses, meaning the viruses making people sick haven’t changed all that much from the cell-grown virus used for the vaccine. This means that the cell-grown prevention methods have a better chance of being effective against the virus. Unfortunately the egg-grown vaccine that most people are give, is not as similar to the viruses, rendering it less effective in protecting against the virus. However, the CDC recommends that everyone in six months of age or older get protected against the flu.
During past flu seasons when the common strain was the H3N2 virus, there were more hospitalizations and more deaths related to the flu than during years when a different strain of Influenza A was the most common, according to the CDC. Most of the people who the CDC has data on who have contracted the flu so far this year have suffered from the Influenza A, with the largest portion of those patients between the ages of 25 and 64 years. For Influenza B, most of the patients were between the ages of five and 24 years of age.
Since Oct. 1, the World Health Organization and the CDC have been working together to collect and test 291 flu viruses. All of those viruses are currently sensitive to all three of the medications that are currently approved for treating the flu, those are oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir. So if there is a need for the flu to be treated with anything other than plenty of fluids and rest, there is a proven way to treat it.
As of Nov. 25, there were four states in the United States with widespread flu activity, those are Georgia, Louisiana, Massachusetts and Oklahoma, according to the CDC. An additional 10 states and Guam reported regional activity and other states reported only local or sporadic activity, or lower levels of flu activity. This map on the CDC website will show you what the flu status is in your state.