(RxWiki News) The United States is in for a long, hard flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year's strain is steadily getting worse.
The CDC's most recent report on flu, for the week ending on December 22, found that there were increases across the board on indicators of flu. That means that more people were visiting doctors with flu-like symptoms, more people were admitted to the hospital for flu, and more states are reporting widespread flu activity.
In other words, watch out for flu.
"Get the flu shot."
The CDC collects data on flu from laboratories and healthcare providers across the country, and then they compare it to data from previous years. Based on this information so far, public health officials are warning that this year could be the most severe in years.
There are also individual reports that this year's flu strains are hitting particularly hard. Domina Nefret, a commenter on the Washington Post, wrote, “I got sick for five days and was more miserable than I have been in as long as I can remember.”
This year, the primary flu strain is H3N2, which has been responsible for more severe flu seasons in the past. Fortunately, the CDC says that the strains in the flu vaccine are well matched to the strains that are circulating around the country.
The number of patient visits to the doctor for flu continues to rise, and has been above the national baseline for the past three weeks. Of the 6,234 specimens tested by laboratories, 29 percent tested positive for influenza.
Eight flu-related deaths have been reported among children, bringing the total to 16 pediatric flu deaths since September 30, 2012. However, total deaths related to pneumonia and influenza are still below the national baseline.
Hospital visits for flu were also on the uptick, notably in patients aged 65 and older. Between October 1 and December 22, over 1,500 hospitalizations have been confirmed.
The flu is also spreading more widely. States reporting widespread flu activity – which is measured by how many regions are reporting increases in flu indicators - was reported in 31 states, which is up from 29 states the previous week.
If you think that you are coming down with the flu, take precautions against infecting other people and get to the doctor. Your doctor can prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your illness if you are diagnosed with flu.
If you don't have the flu yet, it's not too late to get a flu shot. It's quick, easy, and is available at your healthcare provider's office, clinics and pharmacies.