Flu activity increasing nationally — CDC

Flu activity increasing nationally — CDC

Jessica Warner, disease surveillance coordinator at South Heartland District Health Department, said the number of flu cases is comparable to previous years, though recent spikes may indicate an early peak. There are many benefits to vaccination, including reducing the risk of flu illness, doctor's visits, hospitalization, and even death in children.

Infection with the flu presents a higher risk of serious complications and possible death for certain groups of individuals including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions, and persons 65 years and older, the department said.

In North Carolina, 391 flu deaths were reported during the 2017-2018 flu season - the most reported during a flu season since adult flu deaths became reportable in the state in 2009.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu activity has increased around the country in the last week, with more than nine million people having been sick with the flu.

The H1N1 virus strain called pdm09 is the most widely confirmed influenza A strain this winter, according to the report. That's good, because H3N2 viruses are typically more severe.

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There have been seven outbreaks in long-term care facilities investigated and seven schools across the state reported more than 10 percent absenteeism due to illness since the start of the flu season on August 30.

Dickinson says part of the reason that this year's vaccine has been so effective is that H1N1 has mutated less quickly than H3N2.

"If you are working and have respiratory symptoms we are encouraging you to wear a surgical mask and wash your hands frequently to protect persons around you and with whom you have contact", she said. The report shows most of the flu diagnostic tests with positive results have been Influenza A. Only 2.68 percent of the positive tests were Influenza B. Those treated in hospital are not included in the data.

"We've certainly seen the number of lab-confirmed cases come down", Waters said. Often times you see a spike in the "B" cases later on in the flu season.

"That's why it was important for us to get this (vaccine effectiveness) estimate out because it's offering substantial protection, which may still be important in areas where there is elevated activity".

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