Atlanta – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warns that seasonable flu is peaking very late this year. Flu season usually peaks in February, but health officials advise everyone to still take precautions.
Alabama, Kentucky, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Puerto Rico had reported high levels of flu activity by Friday.
There have only been three peaks in March and not a single peak in April in the past 19 years, according to Lynette Brammer, an epidemiologist at the CDC’s Influenza Division. That means that the current peak is later than usual.
Health officials say the predominant strain among the mix of flu viruses present this season has been the H1N1 virus, according to a report by CBS News. Brammer commented that viruses which are circulating are like those contained in the vaccines, meaning that the vaccine effectiveness is high for flu. She said that the rate for this year was close to 60 percent.
The CDC recommends people 6 months and older get vaccinated once a year since it is the most effective way to prevent flu viruses. Doctors advise everyone to take simple prevention steps such as frequent hand washing to avoid germs and staying home if the symptoms appear.
The rate of people seeing the doctor for influenza-like illness declined last week from 3.7 percent to 3.2 percent, according to the CDC report released on Friday.
Vaccination rates in Texas are alarmingly low
President of the Immunization Partnership Anna Dragsbaek wrote for Dallas News that the vaccination rates in Texas were “unacceptable.” Dallas County reported on Thursday the state’s first pediatric flu-related death of the season. The child was just two months old and was therefore too young to get vaccinated.
The U.S. Government’s Healthy People 2020 goal is to have 70 percent of adults between the ages of 18 to 49 vaccinated against the flu, but only 34 percent of this age group was vaccinated in Texas last season, according to Dragsbaek’s article.
Only half of Texans and two-thirds of Texas children are eligible to receive the annual dose of flu vaccine, a situation which Dragsbaek strongly objects. Over the past five years, more than 74 children have died as a result of influenza in this state and Dragsbaek says that these tragedies can be prevented if more people in Texas were vaccinated against the flu each year.
She pointed out that people who have the flu not always experience symptoms and can easily pass the disease to vulnerable individuals such as children younger than six months, pregnant women or immunocompromised people. Dragsbaek remarked the importance of everyone getting the annual dose in order to reduce the average of 23,000 people who die each year in the United States as a result of the contagious disease. That rate, she wrote, is higher than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined.
Source: CBS News