H1N1, Seasonal Flu Spreading Across South-Central US

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The number of US states reporting widespread seasonal flu activity has more than doubled in the last week, and the H1N1 swine flu is the predominant strain of influenza in the south-central part of the country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday.
According to CNN’s Ashley Hayes, the states that are reporting an increase in flu activity being experienced in over 50 percent of their counties or geographical regions jumped from four to 10 last week. Previously, only Alabama, Louisiana, New York and Texas had reported widespread activity, but Alaska, Kansas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wyoming have joined those states.
While the CDC’s flu activity measures only the spread of the flu and not the severity of the illness, Hayes noted six states (Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas) have reported a high ratio of outpatient visits to doctors or hospitals associated with flu-like symptoms. CDC medical officer Dr. Michael Jhung told CNN that thus far it has been “a typical influenza season, if I can use that word.”
However, one aspect of the season that has not been typical is the fact that H1N1 has been the most commonly reported strain. In fact, according to Associated Press reporter Juan Carlos Llorca, the so-called swine flu has already resulted in 13 deaths in the Houston, Texas area, including one teenager.
Approximately 95 percent of the influenza A cases reported statewide have been H1N1, Llorca added.
Jhung told reporters the strain is “the same H1N1 we have been seeing the past couple of years and that we really started to see in 2009 during the pandemic,” and Steven Reinberg of HealthDay News explained this particular strain is different from other types of flu because “it tends to strike younger adults harder than older adults.”
“This year, because it’s an H1N1 season so far, we are seeing more infections in younger adults, and some of these folks have underlying conditions that put them at risk for hospitalization or death,” the CDC flu expert added. On the plus side, he noted this year’s version of the flu vaccine protects against swine flu.
The CDC expects flu activity to increase nationally over the next few weeks, and should reach peak levels during the first two months of 2014. While agency officials do not expect the spread of H1N1 to reach pandemic levels like it did four years ago, they nonetheless recommend vaccinations for anyone over the age of six months.