CDC Warns of Early, Tough Flu Season

CDC Warns of Early, Tough Flu Season

News Dec 04, 2012

Dec. 04--Saying that a jump in suspected flu cases in Alabama and four other Southern states signifies the earliest start to the flu season in nearly a decade, health officials fear this flu season could be particularly bad.

Health officials on Monday also said they are worried that the primary strain of flu circulating now tends to make people sicker than other types and is particularly hard on the elderly.

"It looks like it's shaping up to be a bad flu season, but only time will tell," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Higher-than-normal reports of flu have come in from Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas. An uptick like this usually doesn't happen until after Christmas. Flu-related hospitalizations also are rising earlier than usual, and there already have been two deaths among children.

Donna Edwards, assistant nurse manager at Baptist Medical Center East, said the hospital's emergency department has been seeing an increase in cases of people coming in with flu-like symptoms since about the weekend before Thanksgiving.

"We are seeing a lot of kids with the flu," she said.

Children are one of the Alabama Department of Public Health's major fears -- in fact the ADPH is particularly concerned about Alabamians younger than 65 because they tend to get flu shots less than their counterparts in the rest of the country.

Dr. Mary McIntyre, assistant state health officer for disease control and prevention, said just because reports show there are more early flu cases this year, doesn't mean it will be a particularly bad flu season.

She said the flu season can start earlier than usual, but peak earlier so that it's no worse than other seasons. The fear, she added, is that the season will begin early and then just keep going, making for a much longer than usual flu season.

"There are a number of things that will determine whether this flu season will be a really bad one," she said. "The best way to make sure that we don't have a really bad flu season is for people to go get their shots.

Continue Reading

"But Alabamians tend to have lower immunization rates for younger ages. Our 65-and-older population pretty much compares to the nation as a whole. But we need to encourage people six months of age and older to get the flu shot."

McIntyre said there is some good news about the flu virus, and it makes getting immunized all the more important.

"What we have been able to see from what has been reported and the testing that has been done is that the flu shot that we are offering this season should cover people for the strain of flu that is actually being reported," she said. "We are not seeing anything that's not being covered by what is in the shot.

"So we are telling people who have not yet been vaccinated that it is not too late, and asking them to contact their providers and get immunized."

Edwards said the other major things to prevent a bad flu season are that people need to wash their hands often and need to cover their mouths when they cough.

While the early launch for the flu season doesn't mean it will be a bad one, history isn't good.

The last time a conventional flu season started this early was the winter of 2003-04, which proved to be one of the most lethal seasons in the past 35 years. On average, about 24,000 Americans die each flu season, according to the CDC, but in 2003-2004 there were more than 48,000 deaths.

The dominant type of flu back then was the same one seen this year.

The bright side is that not only is the vaccine better matched to the strain of flu than it was in 2003-04, but that there is more of it and more people are using it.

Flu usually peaks in midwinter. Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head and body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea, and some develop pneumonia or other severe complications.

A strain of swine flu that hit in 2009 caused a wave of cases in the spring and then again in the early fall. But that was considered a unique type of flu, distinct from the conventional strains that circulate every year.

Associated Press writer Mike Stobbe contributed to this report

 

 

Copyright 2012 - Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.

Source
Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.
Rick Harmon
Leaders want to provide first responders with guidelines to follow when handling calls relating to human trafficking.
The study will assess Florida's Division of Emergency Management's response to Hurricane Irma and determine the lessons learned.
The state funding will provide 120,000 doses for first responders, including Pittsburgh park rangers.
The budget cut allowed the department to cross-staff, using firefighters to staff ambulances due to medical calls outnumbering fire calls.
Starting next year, the insurer will reimburse treatment that doesn’t require the emergency department.
One of the two Northern California wildfires have been fully contained due to cooler temperatures and light rain.
Kenneth Scheppke challenged longstanding traditions in patient care that have not withstood current scrutiny.

EMTs and other first responders who treated the wounded on scene of the Vegas shooting could be at risk for post-traumatic stress.

All EMS, fire, and law enforcement agencies in the county will participate in the drill along with 100 volunteers portraying victims of the shooting.
As the state begins facing the effects of the opioid crisis, medical professionals, law enforcement and prosecutors join the national discussion on possible solutions to the epidemic.
Only one of three in the country, the "rapid extrication team" assists in rescuing injured firefighters while local crews battle the forest fires.
The paramedic-staffed chase car would respond to ALS calls in a timelier manner and help alleviate several local fire departments' calls.
Las Vegas and Orlando massacres set a solemn tone for the normally festive event.
In a project to raise grant funding that began a year ago, the Richmond Ambulance Authority and VCU Health teamed up to provide 35 of Richmond’s Public Schools with Bleeding Control (BCON) equipment. 
Mercy Health's new two-story, 29,000 square foot center features a Level 1 trauma center, an expanded surgical area, and more comfortable patient and visitor access.