Flu update Elizabeth Cohen

Elizabeth Cohen reports from Loma Linda, California on the flu.

Posted: Jan 20, 2018 6:39 PM
Updated: Jan 20, 2018 6:39 PM

This year's flu season ranks among the most severe in recent years.

Influenza activity has increased and is now widespread in 49 states -- all except Hawaii -- for the week ending January 13, according to the weekly flu report released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Flu is a contagious, viral illness that causes mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.

There were 14,401 new laboratory-confirmed cases during the week ending January 13, bringing the season total to 74,562. These numbers do not include all people who have had the flu, as many do not see a doctor when sick.

There were 10 additional flu-related deaths among children during the week ending January 13, bringing the total for the season to 30 deaths.

For older people, the CDC estimates deaths based on pneumonia and influenza. Based on National Center for Health Statistics data, 8.2% of all deaths that occurred during the week ending January 13 were due to pneumonia and influenza. This is above the rate considered normal for this period, according to Lynnette Brammer, head of the CDC's Domestic Flu Surveillance team.

Overall, there were 31.5 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people during the week ending January 13, compared with 22.7 per 100,000 for the week ending January 6.

"Hopefully we're at the peak now, but until we see it go down for a couple of weeks we won't know that we have reached peak yet," said Brammer. "Some areas of the country may have, but I think some areas are probably still going up."

The H3N2 virus strain, which is known to cause more hospitalizations and more deaths, is the dominant strain this season so far, Brammer said.

"We want to continue to emphasize that there's still a lot of flu activity to come, people that haven't been vaccinated should still get the vaccine," said Brammer. She said that while we may be peaking with the current wave of flu, it's not unusual to have a second wave come through.

"Given that we're seeing so much flu activity, particularly people who are high risk, the elderly, children under 2, pregnant women, and people with chronic health problems, should talk to their doctors about antiviral medications to treat the Illness," said Brammer.

To prevent pneumonia, the CDC recommends people over age 65, children under age 2 and individuals with medical conditions or health behaviors get a pneumococcal vaccination.

One doctor who has worked in emergency medicine for the last 20 years says this is the worst flu season he's seen.

On the front lines

"This is one of those flu seasons they're gonna be comparing other flu seasons to," said Dr. Brahim Ardolic, chairman of emergency medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City.

Dr. Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC's Influenza Division, said last week the season is looking worse than the 2012-2013 season, but not as bad as the 2014-2015 season, although that could change before the season ends. The H3N2 virus strain was dominant in those seasons, as well.

Mistakenly, the general public believes a bad flu season simply means a lot of people either die or get seriously ill due only to the flu, said Ardolic.

"And it's really not like that," he said. What actually happens -- and is happening now -- is that people with one or two other medical conditions are "coming in with the flu and it's really knocking them for a loop."

"To be honest, in the US today, there's so many people walking around with at least one comorbidity -- diabetes or hypertension or congestive heart failure or COPD -- you're talking about a tremendous number of people," said Ardolic. He added that these people are requiring "pretty significant therapy."

"We have multiple 45-year-olds with diabetes who required admission to the hospital," said Ardolic. "We've had multiple 62-year-olds who are in the ICU with pneumonia on antibiotics and even on ventilator therapy."

"There's no question that the people who got their flu shots this year got less sick than the people who didn't," said Ardolic. "The sickest people are still clearly the ones who did not get their flu shots."

"If you get flu and then you get pneumonia on top of your flu, which is what happens to a lot of these people, you're not gonna do well," he said.

If you want to know why your doctor asked you to get a flu shot or pneumonia vaccination, this is why, said Ardolic: "This is the year where those chickens came home to roost."

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 31715

Reported Deaths: 1984
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9189533
Lake3299167
Cass15826
Allen127766
St. Joseph117034
Hendricks112367
Hamilton109992
Johnson1082104
Elkhart100827
Madison58258
Porter48721
Bartholomew48033
Clark45838
LaPorte40821
Tippecanoe3733
Jackson3611
Howard35618
Delaware35434
Hancock31927
Shelby31421
Floyd31338
Boone28235
Morgan26124
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery22717
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2151
Noble18520
Grant18520
Harrison18521
Dubois1822
Greene16723
Warrick16426
Dearborn16221
Monroe16010
Henry1597
Vigo1477
Lawrence14322
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Carroll922
Kosciusko861
Daviess8216
Steuben792
Newton7410
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Marshall641
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Jasper561
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay430
Jefferson411
Randolph403
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Clay391
Whitley392
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
Owen311
DeKalb291
Perry270
Huntington262
Benton250
Knox240
Crawford230
Wells230
Tipton221
Blackford201
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Parke170
Posey170
Spencer161
Gibson142
Ohio130
Adams121
Warren121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0152

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 112017

Reported Deaths: 4885
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook730973324
Lake7723250
DuPage7207340
Kane5761152
Will5188258
Winnebago195351
McHenry142767
St. Clair99172
Kankakee79942
Kendall71419
Rock Island63622
Champaign5647
Madison53954
Boone39716
Sangamon33126
DeKalb3253
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21110
Ogle1922
Stephenson1902
Macon18819
Peoria1797
Clinton17716
Out of IL1641
Union1417
LaSalle14012
Whiteside13410
Iroquois1304
Coles1169
Warren1140
Unassigned1100
Jefferson10116
Knox940
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee771
Cass670
Henry670
Tazewell673
Williamson551
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin411
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas270
Jo Daviess270
Fayette202
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Mason170
Menard170
Woodford172
Shelby161
Bureau151
Mercer150
Carroll132
Hancock130
Franklin120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Piatt110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
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Gallatin20
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