14% of all Texas deaths related to flu — CDC

14% of all Texas deaths related to flu — CDC

14% of all Texas deaths related to flu — CDC

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Friday reported 42 states had heavy flu-related patient traffic last week, up from 39 the week before.

There have also been a total of five pediatric deaths in Texas this season.

Hospitalizations in the 55- to 64-year-old age group and higher levels of influenza-like illness are where the records will be, Schuchat noted. It reported the highest rate of flu-like illnesses since the flu pandemic of 2009.

Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.

While the H3N2 continues to dominate this season, there are increasing cases of B viruses and the H1N1 strains.

The dominant flu strain this season, influenza A (H3N2), is especially potent, linked with severe disease and death, particularly among children and the elderly.

"There might be a second wave of influenza B infections", she said.

"It's not uncommon for B strains to increase later in the season", Schuchat said.

Health officials warn that you can still fall ill with another strain of the virus even if you have already been infected with the flu this season.

Although the current rates do not mean we're having a pandemic, she said, this is "a signal of how very intense this season has been".

The number of people hospitalized for flu-like illnesses is the highest the CDC has seen since starting its current tracking system in 2010.

Current forecasts rely on this CDC data, but even at its fastest, the information is nearly two weeks behind real-time flu activity.

It would make sense to see "a lot" of influenza deaths in the coming weeks, Schuchat said, based on the fact that many people are in the hospital.

It is not clear why this flu season is so intense and so unusually widespread - causing wide swaths of misery in 48 states and high levels of illness in 43 of them as of February 3. We need to "keep being vigilant", she said.

Knowing that flu activity is about to increase in a community may also prompt individuals to get a flu shot, stay home from work when they get sick, and seek medical help if their illness worsens.

Even though the flu vaccine has low effectiveness against H3N2 viruses, it is more effective against other flu viruses, Schuchat said.

Experts still recommend getting the flu vaccine to reduce the chances of hospitalization or death due to the virus. Based on a recent Canadian report, the effectiveness against B strain viruses is estimated to be about 55%.

'Some protection is better than none, ' Dr Schuchat said.

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