Last year’s flu season was the lowest on record, possibly because COVID-19 measures – school closures, distancing, wearing face masks and canceling travel – stopped the spread of the flu. , or because the coronavirus has somehow pushed other viruses aside.
“This is a more normal flu season,” said Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Childhood deaths, Brammer said, are “unfortunately what we expect as the flu progresses. It’s a sad reminder of how serious the flu is.”
During last year’s unusually mild flu season, one child died. In contrast, 199 children died from the flu two years ago and 144 the year before.
In the latest data, flu activity was most intense in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and the number of states with high flu activity increased from three to seven. In the CDC figures released on Monday, the states with high flu activity are New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia and North Dakota.
The type of virus circulating this year tends to cause the greatest number of serious illnesses, especially in the elderly and very young, Brammer said.
Last year’s flu outbreak made planning for this year’s flu vaccine more difficult. So far, it appears that what’s circulating is in a slightly different subtype than what the vaccine targets, but it’s “really too early to know” whether that will reduce the vaccine’s effectiveness. or not, Brammer said.
“We’ll have to see the impact of these small changes,” Brammer said. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself from the flu.”
There are early signs that fewer people are getting the flu shot than last year. With hospitals already expanding by COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to get flu shots and take other precautions, Brammer said.
“Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Stay home if you’re sick,” Brammer said. “If you have the flu, there are antiviral medications that you can talk to your doctor about to prevent serious illness and keep you out of the hospital.”
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