5604 Flu Hospitalization Rates Are the Highest in Years. Here’s Why.

Flu Hospitalization Rates Are the Highest in Years. Here’s Why.

Where is the flu spreading?

This year’s outbreak began in Louisiana and Mississippi, then spread to California and up the West Coast. The C.D.C. believes it has peaked there; California reported four times as many people hospitalized with flu as were seen three years ago. The flu is now widespread across the Midwest and South, and intensity is still increasing in the Northeast, including in New York City.


Ana Martinez, a medical assistant, administering a flu shot earlier this month in Seattle. Experts say it’s worth getting the vaccine even now; if it does not prevent you from catching flu, the shot may lessen its severity. Credit Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

An experimental new measure, produced by Kinsa from 35,000 daily readings a day uploaded by its internet-connected thermometers, indicates that the highest percentages of people now reporting fevers are in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa and Georgia, and numbers rising in the Mid-Atlantic states and the Northeast.

Are large numbers of people dying?

Hospitalization rates have risen sharply, and those presage high death rates. As happens every season, some apparently healthy people have died. They include a 21-year-old fitness buff in Latrobe, Pa., a mother of three in San Jose, Calif., and a 10-year-old hockey player in New Canaan, Conn. The latest C.D.C. figures indicate that 53 children and teenagers have died of flu and its consequences, including pneumonia, meningitis and sepsis. In 2014-2015, 148 children died by flu season’s end.

How many usually die?

Even in a mild year, flu kills about 12,000 Americans, the C.D.C. estimates. In a bad year, it kills up to 56,000. Most of those deaths are among the elderly, but flu also kills middle-aged adults with underlying problems like heart or lung disease, diabetes, immune suppression or obesity. It is also dangerous for pregnant women, children under age 5 and children with asthma. This year, Americans aged 50 to 64 — part of the baby boom generation — are being hospitalized at unusually high rates, for reasons that are still unclear.

Does this year’s flu shot work?

Its H3N2 component is a bad match for the circulating strain. Australia just had a severe flu season with many deaths, and the vaccine there had the same mismatch. Experts estimated that the vaccine prevented infection only 10 percent of the time. The shot’s efficacy here has not yet been calculated because the virus is still spreading, but experts believe it to be about 30 percent. In Australia, vaccination failed partially because it is urged for only the most vulnerable, while in the United States millions of healthy people are vaccinated.

Is it worth getting the flu shot anyway?

Experts say yes, because even when the shot does not prevent you from catching the flu, it may save you from dying of it. Its effectiveness against H1N1 and B strain flus is higher. And while getting the vaccine in October is best, because it takes about two weeks to build immunity, now is still not too late, because the virus persists into spring. Because some doctors and pharmacies are out of vaccine, the C.D.C. suggests consulting vaccinefinder.org.

Are antiviral flu medicines working?

Yes, to the extent that they ever do. Of all the samples tested so far by the C.D.C., only 1 percent were resistant to oseltamivir, zanamivir, and peramivir, the ingredients in Tamiflu, Relenza and Rapivab. But to be effective, these medicines must be taken as early as possible after symptoms appear. (Rapivab is given intravenously, usually in hospitals.)

Continue reading the main story

On this topic: ( from category News )

Leave feedback

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


one × 5 =