Friday Flu Update- Lot’s Of Flu Still Out There

The flu is continuing to send lots of folks to urgent care and emergency rooms. The number of flu cases are high, and the severity of illness this season is particularly high. Emergency rooms are bulging with patients, Many ERs and ICUs are reporting being at full or near full capacity.  Some patients need ventilators in the hospital due to the severity.

But why is this so surprising to so many people this year? Because “the flu” has become a simple household name. The term is misused for a variety of illnesses, and it’s not generally considered very dangerous by the public.

Until it is.

As of January 13th (the latest complete data from the CDC), the state of the flu season in the United State (unless noted otherwise) is:

  • About 90% of the flu in the USA is from the H3N2
    • The WHO data is still behind ( January 8th), but shows ~ 70% of A viruses have been H3N2 worldwide. This is important because H3N2 years have always been worse, with the vaccine being not as effective.
  • Emergency Room Visits 
    • 10% are due to flu-like illnesses ( compared to 3% this same week last year)
  • Hospitalizations are high-
    • 7% of hospitalizations are due to flu-like illnesses (versus 1% this same time last year)
    • It is hitting hardest in:
      • Folks ≥ 65 years old
      • Followed by people 50-64 years old,
      • and then kiddos 0-4 years old
  • In people hospitalized with the flu, many had at least one underlying illness: 
    • Adults- 75%
      • Including obesity, chronic lung diseases, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic diseases
    • Children- 60%
      • Including asthma, neurologic diseases, obesity, and cardiovascular diseases.
    • In a small sample of women 15-44 hospitalized with the flu
    • 27% were pregnant
  • Deaths:
    • Sadly, 30 children have died in the US this season, so far.
    • California reports that 27 people < 65 years old have dies this season ( see news release here).
    • The UK is reporting about 3x the number of deaths so far than last season.
    • Ireland reports 24 have died (click here)

In my Maricopa County, Arizona (my stomping grounds), the local health department graphs show the numbers on a down turn, yet still with more hospitalizations than the nation. However, in other parts of the world, a “second wave” of flu seems to be evolving, including a “B” strain affectionally called the “Japanese Flu”. If you go the quadrivalent flu vaccine, you have some cross coverage here. If you got the trivalent vaccine, you don’t.

Hopefully, this downward trend will continue, not just in the USA, but everywhere. In the meantime, people already infected, especially those with severe infections or subsequent fall out ( such as pneumonia), are continuing to show up for care, leaving emergency rooms full.

PROTECT yourself and your loved ones! Remember, it is:

  • NOT too late to get the flu shot
    • No- it ISN’T protecting 100%. But data DOES show you are likely to get a less severe case if you get sick. And your less likely to end up hospitalized. To me, that’s, worth it. Most people waste money on daily vitamins and get less out of them than that.
    • Get the quadrivalent flu vaccine if possible. If not, get whatever flu vaccine is available in your neck of the woods.
  • If you get symptoms, get medical care
    • Doctors can prescribe Tamiflu which makes your symptoms less severe and gets you better a little sooner. But to be most effective, it has to be started within 48-72 hours of symptoms. So don’t tough it out.
    • Stay hydrated
    • Stay home- don’t share your illness with everyone else
    • Consider going to urgent care for treatment, but if you feel an Emergency Room is in order, go. They will redirect you if they need to. There are a variety of companies and apps for figuring out local ER wait times- it has become quite the marketing gimmick. But the information does seem to be somewhat suspect, and doesn’t account for a recent trauma showing up just before you. So you can check those number out, but don’t consider them perfect.
    • My personal favorite- Thai spicy hot and sour soup. Anytime I’m sick, this is my go-to. It may not cure a thing, but it makes me feel better.

If your interested in watching how the flu spread across the US- go to this interactive map and click Play. It’s an eye opener!

Hopefully, the next update will show a steady downtrend to cases!

Stay healthy!

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