CDC: Flu Reaching Epidemic Levels

The Centers for Disease Control says the flu has reached epidemic levels and caused the deaths of 15 children around the country.

This happens every year, but Dallas County doctors say it’s happening sooner than it did last year. A snapshot of the flu numbers in Dallas County shows that last week there were 1359 flu cases last month. During the week ending Nov. 22, that number was at 326.

Doctors at Children’s Health System of Texas in Dallas said they see hundreds of cases daily.

“It was really early- to mid-January before we saw that many positive cases last year,” said Dr. LeAnn Kridelbaugh.

Doctors at Children’s Health said they see a lot of influenza-A, and the strain of the virus not covered by the flu vaccine.

“I know one day last week or the week prior, we had over 600 children come through the emergency room,” she recalled. “That's a lot of children to put through one emergency room in a 24-hour period.”

Still, the CDC recommends people get the vaccine as it “can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death,” according to a CDC statement.

Also, a new drug is being added to treat flu symptoms. Doctors said it’s best to discuss this with your own physician.

Statement from the CDC:

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year and right now, all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. P&I (the surveillance system that tracks mortality) shows that we are in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic, but so does the influenza-like-illness (ILI) surveillance system, which has been over baseline for the past 5 weeks, as well as our virologica surveillance system, which is showing increases in the numbers of influenza virus detections, and our hospitalization surveillance systems, which shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 and older. During influenza season, ILI increases first and then hospitalizations increase and then increases in deaths occur so what we are seeing is a typical pattern for the flu season.

At this point, CDC is still recommending that unvaccinated people get their flu vaccines. While some of the viruses spreading this season are different from what is in the vaccine, vaccination can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. CDC also is reminding clinicians and the public that people with high risk factors who get flu symptoms should be evaluated for possible treatment with flu antiviral drugs. It’s very important that antiviral drugs are used early to treat hospitalized patients, people with severe flu illness, and people who are at higher risk for flu complications based on their age or underlying medical conditions (older people, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, etc…). Please note that previously, the neuraminidase inhibitors oseltamivir and zanamivir were the only recommended influenza antiviral drugs, but on December 19, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Rapivab (peramivir) to treat influenza infection in adults. Our web content is still being updated to reflect that change.

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