ATLANTA — The flu is still hitting the U.S. hard, but the number of new infections seems to be slowing down from week to week.
That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which monitors cases throughout the country.
For the week ending January 17, based on pneumonia and influenza mortality surveillance, the season is still above epidemic levels, as is typical during flu season.
Epidemic means that the number of cases is higher than usual. Forty-four states reported widespread flu activity, and 23 states and Puerto Rico reported high levels of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI).
Eleven children have died of flu in the U.S. in the past week, bringing total pediatric deaths this flu season to 56.
The very young and very old are the most susceptible to potentially deadly symptoms of the flu, as are people with chronic medical conditions.
In this flu season, the H3N2 strain of the virus was found in most of the samples taken from people who were sick. That strain is “nastier,” causing more hospitalizations than other strains, said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC’s director.
Most people who were hospitalized for flu in the past week were over age 65. Adults with cardiovascular disease and children with asthma also were more likely to be hospitalized.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, a stuffy nose and sore throat. Doctors may prescribe antivirals, which can shorten the length of time you’ll be sick if you take them within 24 to 48 hours of when symptoms first begin. So far this year, antivirals have been effective in the fight against the virus, the CDC says.
The manufacturers of the antivirals say there is no supply shortage this year, as there have been in years past.
However, studies have shown that many doctors don’t prescribe the antivirals because it doesn’t cure the flu — it only shortens the time you have symptoms by a day or two. Many doctors believe it should be reserved for those most at risk for complications.