The flu season is off to a fast start this year, partly due to the nationwide cold snap and an ineffective vaccine.
While epidemiologists in 36 states have already reported widespread flu activity this season, 21 of those states are also showing a high number of cases. For instance, 40 new cases of influenza were reported last month by hospitals in D.C. where flu activity increased by the end of December and remains elevated.
Likewise, the Maryland Department of Health reported during the week ending Dec. 30, that influenza-like illness intensity in Maryland was “high” with “widespread” geographic activity, compared to Virginia, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention listed last month as one of seven states with widespread flu activity.
“It’s just one of those years where the CDC is seeing that this strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year,” said Jennifer Radtke, manager for infection prevention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville, USA Today reported. “They’re seeing that it’s anywhere from 10 percent to 33 percent effective, so any time there’s a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating strain of the flu, you’re going to see more cases.”
According to the CDC, peak flu activity in the U.S. usually occurs around February. Nationwide, 12 children have already died this flu season, and 2,485 flu-related hospitalizations have been reported. The highest rate of hospitalization involved adults 65 or older, followed by adults between 50 and 64 and children 4 years old or younger.