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Trinity Standard - Local News

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USA's deadly flu season escalates instead of decreasing as hoped
Trinity Standard -

Dr. Sharon Schuetz

The US hasn't had this many people hospitalized for flu in over nine years. While health officials hoped that the number of flu cases had peaked last week, they were disappointed when the figures released Friday showed that the flu victim numbers continue to rise. This year's flu season is getting worse, as the U.S. faces widespread illness and additional deaths attributed to the outbreak. The Associated Press explains, "One measure of the season is how many doctor or hospital visits are because of a high fever, cough and other flu symptoms. Thirty-two states reported high patient traffic last week, up from 26 the previous week." The CDC says flu can vary a lot from year to year, and this year it's spreading actively in all the states at the same time. In other years, it has usually moved in irregular waves, peaking in different parts of the country at different times. "We're seeing flu throughout the entire country," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health and president-elect of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO). The number of flu cases rose sharply across the U.S. last week, and the virus is still widespread in all states except Hawaii, federal health officials said Friday. At least four different strains of influenza are making people sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "Flu vaccines are designed to protect against three or four of the strains but work poorly against the most common strain circulating, called H3N2." The flu season started early this year, and the H3N2 tends to put more people in the hospital and cause more deaths than other common flu bugs. In New York, state officials say a drastic rise in flu cases hospitalized more than 1,600 this past week. "This is a season that has a lot more steam than we thought," said Dr. Dan Jernigan of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, at least 759 people have died from the influenza virus since Oct. 7, nearly double the number of flu deaths than those reported at this time last year. State health officials said that 32 people under 65 died last week of the flu, making it the deadliest week this season so far. In total, 74 people under age 65 have died of the flu since October, compared with 14 at the same time last year. Thirty children have died so far during this flu season. The last two weekly reports have shown the unusual track of the flu spread over the entire continental United States. Typically, the flu seasons start to wane after so much activity. According to Reuters, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue tracking the flu season through the federal government shut down.


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