Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know

sick is no funWith the recent polar vortex creating havoc over significant portions of the US and Canada it’s hard not to notice that winter is truly here. Which makes it a good time for an update on another common winter character: flu season.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) publishes weekly reports on the flu during the peak season, usually December through March. One month into the 2013-2014 season, the virus is steadily increasing, with 25 states – spread across the country – reporting widespread flu activity (see table below). So far this season, 1,583 flu-related hospitalizations have been confirmed and 6 children have died due to complications associated with influenza. While high, these levels are below epidemic proportions according to the CDC. Google’s flu trends report, which analyses the number of online mentions of the flu, indicates that the 2013-2014 season is high but below last year’s exceptional level.

Nevertheless, the current flu season is still a risk, particularly for young children and pregnant women. This is because the year’s major flu strain is H1N1, known for the swine flu pandemic of 2009-2010. This is a recently-mutated flu strain so many people, especially young children, do not have innate immunity. And H1N1 has previously resulted in high rates of complications for pregnant women and their babies.

The silver lining is that this year’s vaccine is a very good fit with the strains currently circulating across the country. Different flu strains tend to be prominent each year, so public health officials use worldwide surveillance data to identify the most likely strains for each year’s vaccine. This year they made a particularly good guess. And although the season has already begun, we haven’t yet reached peak flu activity, so it’s not too late to get protected. There is still plenty of flu vaccine available, including the nasal mist variety, which is great for children (and adults!) who want to avoid a shot.

States Reporting Widespread Flu Activity (Week ending December 28, 2013)

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wyoming

About the Author

Audra is an experienced pharmaceutical marketing professional, aspiring writer, and mother of Elliott, a high-spirited twenty-year old. Frequently tired but never bored, she has a strong interest in public health fostered by numerous years implementing global oncology education programs as well as by her twenty-year crazy (wild? amazing?) adventure in parenting. She recently earned a Masters in Public Health to augment her expertise in health policy and health promotion. Audra is a founding member of the PedSafe Team


4 Responses to “Winter is Here…And So Is the Flu: What You Should Know”

  1. Charlotte says:

    I noticed NJ didn’t make the list (where I currently reside) but I’ve noticed an influx of flu cases from friends/family members around me.

    I can’t believe how incredibly cold it has been out lately. Wake me up in the spring LOL 🙂

  2. It’s EVERYWHERE! I got my kids and myself vaccinated months ago (I have an autoimmune system issue so I have to) but my husband kept insisting he didn’t need it until every single person at his office got it and he then sensed a sore throat coming on, I made him get it the next day (he didn’t really have a sore throat I think he psyched himself out) and we’ve all been healthy!

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