The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday released its latest weekly U.S. influenza report, noting that flu activity “increased sharply” Dec. 17-23, Week 51 of 2017.
Influenza activity is now considered “widespread” in 36 states, including California, up from 23 last week and 12 the week before that. The Week 51 report included three flu-related pediatric deaths and 8.7 confirmed hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
Influenza has resulted in 12 pediatric deaths since Oct. 1, according to the CDC, with four of them occurring in Region 9, which includes California, Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada and several U.S. island territories in the Pacific.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports there have been 11 confirmed flu-related deaths in California of people younger than age 65 this year as of Thursday (flu deaths among people 65 and older are not tracked by the state).
The flu is spread easily at family gatherings around the holidays, with one Northern California doctor calling the spread “eerily similar” to that of last year’s flu season.
The current flu season has been expected to hit hard and peak early, likely by late January, the Washington Post reported. Flu season technically spans from October through May, peaking in February.
The Post noted that this year’s strain, H3N2, typically causes the worst outbreaks.
Vaccine effectiveness is another factor in play this flu season. Jennifer Radtke, an infection prevention manager at the University of Tennessee Medical Center, told USA Today that most years' vaccines are typically 40 percent to 60 percent effective. This year, they’re about 10 percent to 33 percent effective.
“Any time there’s a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating strain of the flu, you’re going to see more cases,” Radtke said.
Flu symptoms include coughing, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and fever. The CDC and other experts advise it is not too late in the season to get a flu shot.
The CDC has recommendations on flu treatment, most notably staying home and avoiding contact with others. Antiviral drugs are also an option.