Merciless and furious without remorse may be the best words to describe influenza’s coast-to-coast nationwide assault to open the 2019-2020 cold and flu season.
Influenza claimed 1,800 lives, caused 3.7 million flu illnesses and 32,000 hospitalizations through December 22. Thirty states are reporting widespread flu and influenza-like illness (ILI) have elevated for six straight weeks. In Iowa, already several people have died from complications to the seasonal health threat.
The statistics are particularly alarming and foreboding since we are still weeks away from the traditional peak of the cold and flu season.
“It is not possible to predict how severe this season might be, but increased influenza activity is expected for several months,” Florida Department of Health spokesman Brad Dalton told reporters.
The chief culprit behind the irregular early-season numbers is the influenza B/Victoria viruses, which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention caused “unusual for this time of year.” The strain is targeting children age 4 and younger most fiercely. A (H1N1) viruses are the next most common virus and are increasing in reports across the country.
With Australia just weathering one of its worst flu seasons on record, American health officials are particularly worried the U.S. could be on a similar track for an extremely furious and sickly season.
“Because of (Australia’s flu epidemic) we wonder if (the U.S.) might also see a higher volume year compared to last year,” Dr. Caitlin Pedati, state medical director and epidemiologist for the Iowa Department of Public Health, told the Cedar Rapids Gazette.
Most importantly, the CDC notes, “it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications.”
For in this unpredictable flu season, Serese Marotta, chief operating officer of the non-profit advocacy organization Families Fighting Flu notes, we need all the flu protection we can get.
“Sadly, there are many families like mine that have been adversely affected by flu,” Marotta, whose 5-year-old son Joseph was healthy until he caught the flu and died in 2009, told National Public Radio. “Misconceptions about the flu — such as the erroneous belief that it only kills people with underlying conditions — persist because the virus “is so dynamic and difficult to understand,” Marotta says. “Flu kills more Americans than all other vaccine-preventable diseases, and as such, it deserves our respect and attention.”
Folks, trust us, if you haven’t yet been vaccinated, don’t sleep any longer on the 2019-20 cold and flu season.