A Bad Flu Season Keeps Getting Worse

A patient gets a shot during a flu vaccine program in Calgary on Oct. 26 2009

A patient gets a shot during a flu vaccine program in Calgary on Oct. 26 2009

Despite hopes the nation would see the flu epidemic drop off by now, the number of severe cases only continues to increase, USA health officials said in a somber telephone conference Friday.

The study looked at the number of deaths attributed to flu in the United States and Mexico between 1997 and 2014, and cross-referenced date of birth. The CDC only counts flu deaths in children; there have been 63 thus far.

This week's data indicated that flu activity remained widespread in 48 states.

More bad news about flu season, as about 10% of deaths were flu-related and hospitalizations are now significantly higher than when CDC first started using its current tracking system in 2010.

Parts of the west coast have been seeing a decline and last week Dr Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC's Influenza Division, said the he hopes it represent a trend of decreasing activity.

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The latest governmental report shows that 1 out of every 13 doctor visits last week was for fever, cough, and other symptoms of the flu, which matches the peak levels we saw during the swine flu epidemic back in 2009.

Epidemiologists and virus experts don't have an explanation yet for why the flu this season has been worse than usual, Schuchat said.

"Even if this season's vaccine effectiveness against H3N2 is low, the vaccine will help protect against hospitalization and severe illness from H3N2 disease as well as providing protection against H1N1 and type B strains", she said.

"Right now we see influenza activity in nearly all of the states, which is really pretty unusual for us", says Dr. Alicia Fry, who is chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Influenza Division.

In the weekly report, however, the CDC revealed that levels of H3N2 appear to be dropping.

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While the CDC does not have numbers yet on how effective this year's flu vaccine is, researchers in Canada - where similar strains of the virus have been spreading - estimate it is less than 20 percent effective against the H3N2 strain.

It's one scary flu season. Though this year's vaccine isn't a flawless match for the viruses in circulation, it's still the best way to protect against infection. Long-term-care facilities, such as nursing homes, have tracked 134 outbreaks of flu-like illness.

And while there is a misconception that the influenza vaccine causes the flu, Lilley stressed this is not true. The flu shot will remain effective for roughly six months.

This year's flu is the worst in almost a decade. People can also become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.

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