(Trends Wide) — Flu season may be starting, says the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC.
While flu activity is very low in the United States, the season is beginning and there is enough evidence to indicate that there will be at least some type of flu season this year, unlike last year when the emphasis was on washing. Frequent handshaking, the use of masks, the closing of schools and businesses, and physical distancing all but stopped the transmission of the virus.
It’s always impossible to predict what a flu season will look like, but Lynnette Brammer, leader of the CDC’s household flu surveillance team, said reports of more flu cases have caught the attention of her team and made her think that the Flu season may have returned after a year off.
“Overall influenza activity is still very low. It’s starting to pick up a bit,” Brammer told Trends Wide.
“That gives us the idea that the flu season may be starting.”
The dangers of a flu season
The CDC estimates that, depending on the season, influenza kills between 12,000 and 61,000 people a year in the United States. During the first week of November, 14% of deaths were attributable to influenza, pneumonia, or COVID-19. Only 0.3% of samples tested tested positive for influenza last week, the CDC found, and only 295 people have been hospitalized for influenza.
On Monday, the CDC confirmed they were helping state and local health officials in Michigan investigate an outbreak of more than 500 cases among students at the University of Michigan. That is the largest single outbreak yet.
Brammer said flu cases appear to be among younger people ages 5 to 24.
“Often times, influenza can appear first in younger age groups and then spread to the very young and old age groups. But this is not always the case,” he said. “Every flu season is different.”
Influenza is complicated because many different types and strains circulate. Right now, Brammer said, a strain known as H3N2, which has been around for decades, is what is infecting people. Flu vaccines also protect against a strain known as H1N1, which appeared and caused a mild pandemic in 2009, as well as two strains of influenza B.
CDC recommends getting vaccinated against influenza
The CDC recommends that almost everyone age six months and older should get a flu shot every year. This is because the virus mutates and the formulation is often modified, but also because people’s immunity decreases from year to year, even with vaccination.
Brammer said vaccine manufacturers project that they will produce 200 million doses of influenza vaccine this year, the largest supply to date. That’s not enough to cover the entire population of the United States, but historically, only half of the people who should get a flu vaccine do so.
“The best thing was to get vaccinated in October, but a lot of people just didn’t get it,” Brammer said. “If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, you better do it now.”
Many Americans are also advised to receive booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines and are safe and convenient to collect, Brammer said. “This is the perfect time to go get vaccinated if you haven’t already,” he said.
CDC is concerned that flu vaccination appears to have been delayed.
Flu vaccination rates for children are 6 percentage points lower this year than last year, with 34% of children receiving the flu vaccine so far, compared with 40% this time a year ago. anus. It’s 10 points lower for black kids: 24.9% compared to 35.3% last year.
Pregnant women, who are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot both to protect themselves and their babies, are also falling behind. Only 41% of pregnant women are vaccinated so far, compared to 58% at this time last year, the CDC says. And only 21.5% of pregnant black women are vaccinated.
The CDC says, however, that overall more people say they plan to get a flu vaccine this year than last year. They say 58.5% of people surveyed say they plan to get a flu vaccine, compared to 54.8% who got vaccinated last year.
The CDC found that 70.6% of adults who are vaccinated against coronavirus or who definitely plan to receive a covid-19 vaccine have received or intend to receive a flu vaccine for the 2021-22 season.
And only 11% of adults who say they will probably or definitely not get a coronavirus vaccine say they will get a flu shot.
So far, the CDC says, 162.5 million doses of the flu vaccine have been distributed. Vaccine manufacturers continue to manufacture and distribute flu vaccines.