It’s flu season, all right. Federal officials reported on Friday that influenza activity is widespread in 25 states and regional in 20 more, although it’s not at epidemic levels yet.
“We’re seeing pretty substantial increases in activity, but they’re not unexpected,” says Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in the flu division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We see pockets of high activity in several states and pockets of low activity in others, but we expect every state will get hit.”
Michigan’s one hard-hit state, and at the University of Michigan, more than a dozen adults and children infected with flu are on life support.
“Most are young and otherwise healthy, and were transferred to U-M from other hospitals because their flu was so severe. Most have the H1N1 strain of flu,” the hospital said in a statement. “And as far as hospital staff can tell, these patients either didn’t get the flu vaccine at all — or didn’t get it in time to protect them fully.”
Jhung called the cases unfortunate, but not surprising.
“We see thousands of people admitted into the hospital with influenza every year and we expect to see admissions this year, too. We have received reports of hospitalizations in young and middle-aged adults this year, and while this makes sense to us, given that it’s an H1N1 season, it’s different from what many people expect to see during the flu season because they’re not used to the idea of seeing severe illness in people this age.”
So far, six children have died from influenza. Last year, 171 children died of flu, Jhung says. “In 2009, school-aged kids were hit pretty hard by H1N1, and if any of them still have some residual protection, they may possibly be a little more protected this year,” he said.
On average, CDC says 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu each season. It kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people a year.
Jhung says it’s too early to tell for sure, but the vaccine appears to match the circulating strain of H1N1 flu well. The vaccine also protects against a strain of H3N2 flu and either one or two strains of influenza B.