Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Health officials expect rough flu season

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
December 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Doctors are urging that everyone get their flu shots now. The cases of cold and flu for 2012 spiked last week. Thus far, the highest level of flu activity has been reported by states in the U.S. South.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - This year's flu season has begun early, with activity up significantly across the nation. Health officials say the flu has been especially tough in south and southeastern U.S. states.

"It looks like it's shaping up to be a bad flu season," Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

Flu season may start as early as October, but typically spikes in January or later. Those who went to the doctor with influenza-like illness reached the national baseline of 2.2 percent. It was the earliest that has happened in the regular flu season in nearly a decade, the 2003-2004 seasons.

Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas have all reported high levels of infection. Widespread activity was reported in four states, regional activity was seen in seven states and 19 states reported local flu activity, which was up from eight states that reported local flu activity the previous week.

Last year's flu season started late. There was a reported uptick in cases not starting until February.

Health officials are urging people to get their flu shots now, including babies older than six months, and all adults and children. About a quarter of the U.S. population gets the flu and an average of about 36,000 people die every year.

The strains this year sickening most folk are influenza A -- both H3N2 and the 2009 H1N1 or pandemic swine flu strain -- and influenza B. The vaccines manufactured for this season appear to be a good match, health officials said.

However, the H3N2 virus may typically cause more severe symptoms than the other flu bugs, the chairman of the Department of Preventive Medicine at Vanderbilt University Dr. William Schaffner say. His staff has already started seeing flu patients in Tennessee. "We're all a bit antsy," he said.

About 120 million doses of flu vaccine are available this year, Frieden said. About 112 million people have received their flu shots so far, officials said.

The key to avoiding the flu is getting the shot, the experts emphasized.

"We are particularly encouraging people who haven't gotten vaccinated to do it," Dr. Melinda Wharton, acting director of the CDC's Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases says.

Article brought to you by: Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)