THURSDAY, Feb. 17 (HealthDay News) -- The flu season got off to
a slow start in the United States last fall, but is now circulating
in all 50 states and widespread in 37, health officials report.
Pediatric deaths from flu tripled in the past month, jumping
from 10 early in January to 30 by Feb. 5, according to the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We still have a lot of flu out there," said CDC spokesman Tom Skinner. "We saw activity really start to pick up in December, and it has continued through January into February, which is normal," he said.
Outpatient doctor visits because of flu increased steadily from
January to February, according to the report in the Feb. 18 issue
of the CDC's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. The report covers the period from Oct. 3, 2010, to Feb. 5, 2011.
While it's too early for exact numbers, the flu, which usually
peaks in February, contributed to 8 percent of adult deaths in 122
cities that report this data to the CDC. This is considered an
"This year we are seeing a very typical flu season," noted one expert, Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, New York City. "The time is right on target. This is when you see the peak of flu season."
He added that "the number of hospitalizations and deaths are
right on course for a typical flu season." Each year about 200,000
Americans are hospitalized and 37,000 will die from flu, Siegel
Skinner stressed that it's not too late to get a flu shot. "Flu
activity is going to continue into March," he said. "There is
plenty of vaccine out there, and we encourage vaccination
throughout the season."
Of the three confirmed flu viruses -- influenza A H1N1,
influenza A H3N2 and influenza B -- the H3N2 strain has
predominated, but all three are circulating, according to the CDC
report. The relative proportions have varied by time period and
region this flu season.
Unlike last year, when the H1N1 flu swept the globe, there is no
pandemic. All flu seasons are unique, Skinner said, but there is
"nothing extraordinary going on when it comes to our flu
Siegel was somewhat surprised that H1N1 flu is not as
predominant as he thought it would be. "It looks like it got enough
out into the population, so that a great deal of resistance
developed quickly," he said.
Children's deaths have been reported from 18 states, with more
than a third of those deaths from influenza B. By contrast, from
April 2009 through late January 2010, the CDC said 329 children
died of the pandemic flu.
"A lot of people get sick from flu and, unfortunately, people die from flu," Skinner said.
The good news is the current flu vaccine contains the strains of
flu that are currently circulating, Skinner said. "The vaccine is a
good match," he said.
Vaccination is recommended after 6 months of age. The CDC
recommends discussing vaccination with your doctor.
For more information on flu, visit the
U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.