According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the flu continues its steady spread across the U.S. during a cold winter, with the virus widespread in 35 states, up from 25 last week.
There have been two reported U.S. deaths from H1N1, the virus that became well-known after 2009 pandemic and where 97% of this year’s flu comes from.
This particular strain of flu hits adults between the ages of 18-64, usually thought of as young enough to fend off the worst flu symptoms. This season 61.5% of hospitalized flu patients are between the ages of 18 and 64. It's a sharp increase from last season when they made up 34% of hospitalized flu patients.
Doctors are recommending extra attention to hygiene and getting the flu shot — however, it only offers some protection against H1N1 and not fully vaccinates against the virus. (Still, if you haven’t already, get a flu shot: the CDC estimates that flu vaccination prevented 6.6 million illnesses last year, 3.2 million doctor visits and at least 79,000 hospitalizations.)
Widespread flu activity was reported in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
In some areas, including central Texas and the San Francisco Bay area, overflow tents have been set up to handle flu patients.
It’s too early to predict what kind of flu season we’re in for, but with the dramatic 10-state upswing in just a week, we can only assume it’ll be a rough one. Last year, 381,000 people were hospitalized and 171 children died in what's been called a relatively severe season.
One website, Flu Near You, which launched in 2011 has been tracking self-reported trends in the presence of flu-like systems from its estimated 80,000 participants, 40,000 of whom actively respond to weekly email updates. The site also gives flu shot locations on user’s zip codes, in an attempt to reduce the yearly influenza-related deaths in the U.S., which the CDC estimates is sometimes as high as 49,000.