News, Videos, and More from Racine, the State of Wisconsin, the USA, and the World
Sunday, December 8, 2019
US flu season arrives early, driven by an unexpected virus
NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. winter flu season is off to its earliest start in more than 15 years.
An early barrage of illness in the South has begun to spread more broadly, and there’s a decent chance flu season could peak much earlier than normal, health officials say.
The last flu season to rev up this early was in 2003-2004 — a bad one. Some experts think the early start may mean a lot of suffering is in store, but others say it’s too early to tell.
“It really depends on what viruses are circulating. There’s not a predictable trend as far as if it’s early it’s going to be more severe, or later, less severe,” said Scott Epperson, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are different types of flu viruses, and the one causing illnesses in most parts of the country is a surprise. It’s a version that normally doesn’t abound until March or April.
That virus generally isn’t as dangerous to older people — good news, since most flu hospitalizations and deaths each winter occur in the elderly. However, such viruses can be hard on children and people younger than 50.
Louisiana was the first state to really get hit hard, with doctors there saying they began seeing large numbers of flu-like illnesses in October.
Children’s Hospital New Orleans has already seen more flu cases this fall than it saw all of last winter, said Dr. Toni Gross, the hospital’s chief of emergency medicine. Last month was the busiest ever at the hospital’s emergency department. Officials had to set up a triage system and add extra shifts, Gross said.
“It is definitely causing symptoms that will put you in bed for a week,” including fever, vomiting and diarrhea. But the hospital has not had any deaths and is not seeing many serious complications, she said.
Health officials tend to consider a flu season to be officially underway when — for at least three weeks in a row — a significant percentage of U.S. doctor’s office visits are due to flu-like illnesses. That’s now happened, CDC officials said this week.
The agency on Friday estimated that there have already been 1.7 million flu illnesses, 16,000 hospitalizations, and 900 flu-related deaths nationally.
The most intense patient traffic had been occurring in a six states stretching from Texas to Georgia. But in new numbers released Friday, CDC officials said the number of states with intense activity rose last week to 12. Flu is widespread in 16 states, though not necessarily at intense levels in each, the CDC said.
Last flu season started off as a mild one but turned out to be the longest in 10 years. It ended with around 49,000 flu-related deaths and 590,000 hospitalizations, according to preliminary estimates.
It was bad, but not as bad as the one before it, when flu caused an estimated 61,000 deaths and 810,000 hospitalizations. Those 2017-2018 estimates are new: The CDC last month revised them down from previous estimates as more data — including actual death certificates — came in.
In both of the previous two flu seasons, the flu vaccine performed poorly against the nasty predominant virus. It’s too early to say how well the vaccine is performing right now, Epperson said.
Epperson said there’s a chance the flu season will peak this month, which would be unusually early. Flu season usually doesn’t hit fever pitch until around February.
The early start suggests a lot Americans may be sick at the same time, said Dave Osthus, a statistician who does flu forecasting at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “This could be a precursor to something pretty bad. But we don’t know,” he said.
Gross is pessimistic. “I, personally, am preparing for the worst,” she said.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content
Every Wednesday, Madame Zoltar responds to your queries and comments in her blog, Dear Madame Zoltar. Are the stars in your favor? What to do with that 401K? Find out by sending your questions and thoughts to: email@example.com
“Herb is the healing of a nation, alcohol is the destruction.” Bob Marley
PLEASE BE SURE TO READ OUR DISCLAIMER AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE
This website exists for entertainment purposes only. The reader is responsible for discerning the validity of information posted here, be it fictional or based on real events or people. The content of posts on this site, including but not limited to links to other web sites, are the expressed opinion of the original poster and are in no way representative of or endorsed by the owners or administration of this website. The posts on this website are the opinion of the specific author and are not statements of advice, opinion, or factual information on behalf of the owner or administration of JT Irregulars. This site may contain adult content and if you feel you might be offended by such content, you should log off immediately.
Not all posts on this website are intended as truthful or factual assertion by their authors. Some users of this website are participating in internet role playing, with or without the use of an avatar. NO post on this website should be considered factual information on face value alone. Users are encouraged to USE DISCERNMENT and do their own follow up research while reading and posting on this website. JT Irregulars reserves the right to make changes to, corrections and/or remove entirely at any time posts made on this website without notice. In addition, JT Irregulars disclaims any and all liability for damages incurred directly or indirectly as a result of a post on this website.
This site is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind, either expressed or implied. You should not assume that this site is error-free or that it will be suitable for the particular purpose which you have in mind when using it. In no event shall JT Irregulars be liable for any special, incidental, indirect or consequential damages of any kind, or any damages whatsoever, including, without limitation, those resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether or not advised of the possibility of damage, and on any theory of liability, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of this site or other documents which are referenced by or linked to this site.
Some events depicted in certain posting and threads on this website may be fictitious and any similarity to any person living or dead is merely coincidental. Some other articles may be based on actual events but which in certain cases incidents, characters and timelines have been changed for dramatic purposes. Certain characters may be composites, or entirely fictitious. We do not discriminate against the mentally ill!
Administrators may close an account, remove any post or comment and cancel author accounts as they, alone, deem necessary. You may contact the administration at firstname.lastname@example.org to report inappropriate use or to ask for the removal of specific material. The administration retains the final decision of what content constitutes appropriate use and what content is displayed.
Fair Use Notice: This site may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Users may make such material available in an effort to advance awareness and understanding of issues relating to civil rights, economics, individual rights, international affairs, liberty, science & technology, etc. We believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.