It’s early, but the current flu season is shaping up to be gentler than last winter’s unusually brutal one, U.S. health officials said.
In most parts of the country, most illnesses right now are being caused by a flu strain that leads to fewer hospitalizations and deaths as the kind of flu that dominated a year ago, according to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccines are also working better against it.
So, is the U.S. in for a milder flu season?
If the current strain continues to be the predominant virus, it is what the head of the epidemiology and prevention branch of CDC’s flu division expects.
Last season, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications — the disease’s highest death toll in at least four decades. In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000, according to the CDC.
The CDC has no estimate of deaths so far this season, partly because it’s so early. Flu usually takes off after Christmas and peaks around February.
On Friday, the CDC released its regular weekly flu update, showing that it was reported to be widespread in 30 states last week, up from 24 the week before.
The health agency also released new estimates of how the flu season is playing out. It said:
- About 6 million to 7 million Americans have become ill since flu season kicked off in the fall.
- About half were sick enough to go to see a doctor.
- Roughly 70,000 to 80,000 have been hospitalized.
In Arizona, there have been 4,510 confirmed cases of influenza this season compared to 16,144 last year at this time, and the flu is widespread throughout the state. Yavapai County has had 52 confirmed cases, but this is a small proportion of the true number of cases, due to many people not going to the doctor to be tested. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, it’s not too late. Call 928-771-3122 to make an appointment at YCCHS locations in Prescott, Prescott Valley or Cottonwood.