*As of the most recent update from the CDC ending Week 1, flu season 2021 remains lower than usual for this time of year in all major regions of the United States. This article will be updated as numbers are reported.
Each flu season, the CDC tracks a few important metrics that help tell the story of how severe the current flu season is compared to previous seasons. Here are a few numbers to track.
PIC Mortality - The PIC mortality rate is the rate of deaths attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID-19. In a non-COVID year, this is called P&I (pneumonia and influenza). This year's PIC rate is 17.2% which is above the epidemic threshold of 7.0%. According to the CDC, among the 3,337 PIC deaths reported for the week, 2,486 had COVID-19 listed as an underlying or contributing cause of death on the death certificate and 2 listed influenza, indicating that the current increase in PIC mortality is due primarily to COVID-19 and not influenza.
Hospitalization Rates - Hospitalization rates are the number of hospitalizations based on the number of positive cases. Hospitalization rates will be presented once case counts increase to a level that produces stable rates. A total of 129 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported by FluSurv-NET sites between October 1, 2020 and January 9, 2021 which is lower than average for this point in the season and comparable to counts seen at this point during the 2011-12 season.
Pediatric Deaths - Pediatric deaths are the number of deaths of people under the age of 18. In 2019/20, there were 195 pediatric deaths. There has been one pediatric death during the 2020/21 season so far.
In New York State for the most current week of reporting ending January 2, laboratories tested 33,934 specimens for influenza, of which 221 (0.7%) were positive, a 15% increase over the previous week, according to the New York State Department of Health. The number of patients hospitalized with influenza was 26, a 40% decrease over the previous week.
There have been 32 cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza in Monroe County up to the week ending January 2. This equals a 1.2% positivity rate, according to the New York State DOH.
Between October 1, 2019 and April 4, 2020, the flu resulted in:
Health officials are urging people to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible this year to prevent the spread of flu amidst the coronavirus pandemic. Contact your primary care provider to schedule your flu shot or call your local pharmacy for more information.
New York State reported 157,758 positive cases between October 1 2019 and April 4, 2020. In Monroe County, NY, there were 17 deaths and 5,775 confirmed cases since October 1. Of those confirmed cases, 763 resulted in hospitalization.
A total of 19,713 influenza-related hospitalizations were reported between October 1, 2019 and March 28, 2020. 72% were associated with Influenza A and 27% were Influenza B, which is a reversal of early season numbers when Influenza B was more dominant.
The overall cumulative hospitalization rate was 67.9 per 100,000 population over the same time period. This number is higher than all recent seasons during the same time period, except for the 2017-18 season. Hospitalization rates in children aged 0-4 years old and adults 18-49 years old are the highest on record according to the CDC, surpassing the rate reported during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
Both strains of influenza cause typical flu symptoms, like fever, fatigue, body aches, chills, sore throat, and cough. It’s unlikely patients would be able to tell the difference between A or B without a lab test. However, Influenza B is slower to develop, which is why it typically appears later in the season. It’s also more likely to impact children and younger adults instead of the elderly. This could explain why more people were infected with the flu earlier in the year over previous years, but the number of hospitalizations and deaths were lower.
In 2020, Influenza B appeared earlier than usual. Traditionally, Influenza A appears earlier than Influenza B, but that was not the case to begin 2020. Roughly 70% of early flu cases were Influenza B and about 30% were been caused by Influenza A, according to the CDC.
The flu shot is developed at the start of each season to protect from strains of the flu. More than 170 million doses of the flu vaccine were administered to fight the 2019/2020 flu virus. At the beginning of the year, the vaccine reduced doctor's visits by 45% overall and 55% in children, but rates among children and young adults were higher earlier in the season compared to recent seasons.
"The vaccine has significantly reduced medical visits associated with influenza so far this season," the CDC announced in its February 21 report.
If you have already received your vaccine for the 2020/2021 season, you don’t need to get a second shot--except children under the age of 9 who are getting vaccinated for the first time.
“While it’s possible to get the flu even if you get the shot, vaccination reduces your risk of getting sick and may lessen the severity of the symptoms if you do,” explained the CDC's Lynnette Brammer.
Flu comes hard and fast. While there is no cure for the flu, there are several ways you can alleviate flu symptoms for a more comfortable recovery.
One way to help your body recover from the flu is to stay hydrated. When you’re sick, your temperature increases and you become dehydrated, causing a myriad of issues like the chills, sweats, dizziness, and thirst.
Water is always best, but low-sugar sports drinks that contain electrolytes can also help you replenish nutrients and calories.
Your body can better fight infection when it is in a sleep state, according to a new study by Rockefeller University Press. The study shows that during sleep, the body’s immune cells attach to infected cells and fight off the virus.
With the flu, it’s recommended that you get as much rest as possible, always stay home from work until you are symptom-free for 24 hours, and do as little physical excursion as possible.
“Medications like Tamiflu is an option for alleviating flu symptoms,” said Dr. Christine Cameron, Primary Care Physician at Medina Family Medicine.
Tamiflu attacks the flu virus in your body, prevents it from multiplying, and reduces flu symptoms. However, Tamiflu is only effective for patients who have tested positive for the flu. Antihistamines and decongestants can also help reduce nasal swelling and itchy, watery eyes.
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