Why Does Everyone Seem to Get the Flu Nowadays?

Influenza cases are clearly more prominent this year, and experts have several theories.Influenza cases are clearly more prominent this year, and experts have several theories.

If you think this flu season is worse than previous flu seasons, you’re not imagining it. Last season, flu activity had peaked and started to decline in early January. This year, influenza continues to increase across the country and sends tens of thousands of people to doctors.

Flu estimates from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that 20 million to 39 million people have contracted the flu, up to 18 million people have visited a doctor, up to 490,000 people have been hospitalized, and between 14,000 to 43,000 people have died from it. deep into this flu season, from October 1 to January 27.

“This is a big impact this season,” said Alicia Budd, CDC team leader for domestic flu surveillance.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint the reason for this season’s flurry of flu activity, flu experts explain what’s happening ― and why this flu season is at record levels.

The flu sent many people to the hospital.

The first thing doctors see this flu season: the number of hospitalizations. The hospitalization rate recorded in late December was the third highest peak of flu-related hospitalizations recorded since the 2010-2011 flu season, according to Dr. Robert H. Hopkins Jr., medical director of the National Foundation for Infectious. Disease (NFID).

The cumulative hospitalization rate for the season is currently 47.8 per 100,000 people – which is the fourth highest rate so far this year since the 2010-11 season.

“We have high rates of emergency department visits, outpatient visits, hospitalizations across the country,” Hopkins said.

Adults 60 and older and children under 5 experienced the highest rates of hospitalization. According to Hopkins, we haven’t seen as many deaths as in previous seasons, but mortality data tends to lag, and we may see an increase in flu deaths in the coming weeks. Although flu activity has decreased slightly over the past few weeks, influenza continues to increase in the South, Northeast, Mountain West and West Coast regions.

The majority of flu cases this year were caused by influenza A H1N1, a strain of the virus that tends to be more severe in children and adults than influenza A H3N2, which is usually more severe in older adults, Budd said.

Some data suggests that people infected with influenza A H1N1 are more likely to be admitted to intensive care, require mechanical ventilation, or die. “Different strains affect people differently,” Hopkins said.

We are also seeing an increase in cases caused by influenza B/Victoria, a strain of the virus that has been linked to adverse outcomes in hospitals. It’s unclear whether flu activity has peaked or another wave is about to hit. There may still be five to six weeks left of flu season, Hopkins said.

It's not too late to get a flu shot.It’s not too late to get a flu shot. Very low vaccination rates fuel the spread of the disease.

First, there’s some good news: This year’s flu shots appear to be particularly good against circulating strains, including H1N1, H3N2 and B/Victoria, according to Hopkins. This means the shot is effective in preventing disease and, most importantly, reducing the severity of infection and the risk of complications in those who get sick.

“It looks like the vaccine is pretty good,” Hopkins said.

The problem is that flu vaccination rates are very low this season. Racial disparities in vaccine coverage persist, and rates are lowest in rural communities and among those of low socioeconomic status.

Lower vaccination rates mean more people are unprotected and there is a greater opportunity for the virus to spread.

“If more people around you are spreading the virus, then the vaccine will protect you from severe illness but may not protect you from getting the flu just because of the frequency of exposure and the amount of exposure,” Hopkins explained.

It’s not too late to get a flu shot. This past flu season lasted until May. As long as flu activity persists (which it does), it’s smart to vaccinate, Budd said.

Take care of yourself if you have the flu.

If you have the flu, heed the age-old advice: Get plenty of rest, drink fluids, and keep your distance from others while you recover.

There are over-the-counter pain and fever relievers, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and naproxen, that can relieve symptoms. Hopkins emphasizes that it is important to check with your doctor before taking these medications because there are some conditions – such as kidney and liver disease and ulcers – that can worsen with some pain medications.

Honey consumed by a spoonful or mixed in a cup of warm water can help overcome coughs. Checking your oxygen levels with a pulse oximeter may also be useful. “If someone has a saturation below 90%, that would be a reason to contact your healthcare provider, even if you don’t feel short of breath,” Hopkins said. According to Hopkins, scheduling a telehealth appointment is a sensible step for people who have milder symptoms or are not at risk of severe illness, although he added a disclaimer: It’s very difficult to know how sick someone is through a video visit, and you may still have to go to your doctor’s office for follow-up.

Here’s a good time to schedule an in-person appointment: You’re having trouble breathing, your fever can’t be controlled, you’re experiencing confusion, or your condition has improved but suddenly the fever returns and your symptoms worsen. “That’s when you need to contact your healthcare provider immediately,” Hopkins said.

If you test positive for the flu, effective antiviral medications are available that can shorten the course of your illness. They work best if you start them as soon as possible. Severe chest pain, extreme shortness of breath, and loss of consciousness require a call to 911 or a trip to the emergency room.

Lastly, don’t worry if your symptoms persist. It’s common for people to have a cough or stuffy nose for up to two weeks, especially older adults and people with lung disease, Hopkins said. It will take some time for your immune system to return to normal after recovery. Plus, dry air doesn’t help, he says, and there’s always the chance you’ll catch another virus.

Don’t let your guard down just yet – there’s no way of knowing how long this flu season will last.

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