-- Margaret Farley Steele
THURSDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Flu activity in the United
States was low this fall throughout most of the nation, but
government health officials expect flu viruses will infect more
people in the weeks and months to come.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already
received several reports of flu-related deaths, including two
children under the age of 5, one from New York and one from
From Oct. 3 through Dec. 11, most cases of flu occurred in the
Southeast, according to this week's
Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, from the CDC. Of the three flu strains circulating -- influenza A (H3N2), 2009 A (H1N1) and B viruses -- the B virus has predominated in the southeastern states.
Flu activity last year peaked early (in late October) because of
the H1N1 or so-called swine flu pandemic, but flu typically peaks
in January or later, health officials noted.
The best way to prevent flu is to get a flu vaccine each
"Health-care providers should offer influenza vaccination throughout the influenza season to protect as many persons as possible from influenza virus infection and its complications," the report said.
The flu causes severe illness and life-threatening complications
in many people, especially the very young, very old, pregnant women
and those with compromised immune systems. On average, between 5
percent and 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu and more
than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications each
year, according to the CDC.
The strains included in this season's updated vaccine are
well-matched to the viruses seen so far, officials said.
Doctors should watch for signs of bacterial co-infection in
patients with flu and request bacterial cultures if pneumonia is
suspected, the report says. When deciding on antibiotic treatment
for bacterial infection, they should take methicillin-resistant
Staphylococcus aureus into account.
So far this season, 2,807 positive flu tests from 48 states and
the District of Columbia have been reported to the CDC. Of those,
nearly two-thirds (63 percent) were from the Southeast, the only
region where more cases of influenza B have been reported than
influenza A. Those cases represent 86 percent of all influenza B
viruses reported nationwide.
In 2009-2010, the widespread H1N1 virus caused the first flu
pandemic in more than 40 years. CDC expects the H1N1 virus to
spread again this season, along with the other seasonal flu
To learn more about the flu, visit the
U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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