So far this season, the flu has killed nearly 2,000 people in 30 states, including 19 children, according to the centers for disease control and prevention. In its weekly update on Friday, the Center for Disease Control said the number of flu cases was rising in nearly every state, with a total of more than 3.7 million cases, including 32,000 hospitalizations. Most of this season’s flu patients were infected with a virus called B/Victoria, a type of influenza B virus that doesn’t usually show up until the end of the flu season.
The CDC says the virus is more likely to infect children and young adults, but anyone can be infected.Over the past month, flu infection rates have been higher than normal and rising, according to the CDC. As of Nov. 30, 3.5 percent of health care workers nationwide were seeing doctors for influenza-like illnesses, well above the national average baseline of 2.2 percent, but probably not the peak. This flu season marks the first time in nearly a decade that attendance rates for influenza-like illnesses among health care workers have exceeded the national baseline. The last time that percentage was higher than baseline was when a particularly deadly strain of flu hit the U.S. during the 2003-2004 flu season. (this figure does not include 2009 H1N1 flu) Louisiana and four other southeastern states, as well as Puerto Rico, had the highest levels of flu activity in the week ending Nov. 23, according to the CDC, which ranks flu activity at 10 levels. During the same period last year, only two states reached the highest level. In fact, in the last ten flu seasons, there have never been so many places with so many flu outbreaks at this time of year.
Last year, the flu season was the longest in a decade, with a record number of hospitalizations. But because this year’s flu season began early in October, the American academy of pediatrics recommends that parents take their children to get vaccinated early. In a recent survey, more than half of parents thought the vaccine would cause the flu, and they didn’t realize how important it was. More and more people are getting infected early in the flu season, said David millstone, a professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins university school of medicine.”Typically, influenza a is the first wave at the beginning of the flu season, while influenza b should start in the late spring,” he told USA TODAY. “This year, it changed.”Influenza b affects only humans and seals and can often be transmitted from person to person. According to the Center for Infectious Diseases research and policy at the University of Minnesota, there were few b-flu outbreaks last season. Milstone said it was not clear why influenza b often appears toward the end of the flu season, or why this year was an exception.