The U.S. flu season has arrived on schedule after taking a year off, with flu hospitalizations rising and two child deaths already reported.
Last year's flu season was the lowest on record, likely because COVID-19 measures — school closures, distancing, masks and canceled travel — prevented the spread of influenza. However, the 2021-2022 season is setting itself up to be more of a normal flu season. Unfortunately, the childhood deaths are what we expect when flu activity picks up — a sad reminder of how severe flu can be. During last year's unusually light flu season, one child died. In contrast, 199 children died from flu two years ago, and 144 the year before that.
In the newest data, the most intense flu activity was in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C., and the number of states with high flu activity rose from three to seven. In CDC figures released Monday, states with the highest flu activity are New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Georgia, North Dakota — and Tennessee.
The type of virus circulating this year tends to cause the largest amount of severe disease, especially in the elderly and the very young. Last year's break from the flu made it more challenging to plan for this year's flu vaccine. So far, it looks like what's circulating is in a slightly different subgroup from what the vaccine targets, but it's still too early to know whether that will blunt the vaccine's effectiveness. Regardless of the overall impact, the flu vaccine is still the best way to protect against flu. However, there are early signs that fewer people are getting flu shots compared with last year.
With hospitals already stretched by COVID-19, it's more important than ever to get a flu shot and take other precautions, such as covering your cough, washing your hands, and staying home if you're sick. If you do get flu, there are antivirals you can talk to your doctor about that can prevent severe illness and help you stay out of the hospital.
Flu tests and flu shots are available at Summit Medical Group provider offices and Summit Express Clinics. For additional information or to schedule an appointment, visit www.summitmedical.com to find a location near you.
- Content sourced from the Associated Press