Medicine

Flu season is not over yet

Flu season is not over yet

But what's interesting about this year's spike in reported illnesses is that the H3N2 virus, a more severe strain of the flu, is causing the majority of hospitalizations.

However, not all flu-related deaths are detected or reported, so the CDC believes the actual number of deaths to be higher.

To date, 13 adult deaths and one infant death were reported during the season. The season usually ends in May.

As it did for the previous week, however, the CDC flu forecasting initiative for March 5 said, "There is about a 90 percent chance that the flu season has peaked" with flu activity "likely to remain elevated over the next month".

It's unclear whether the season has peaked, but there are still weeks of flu activity to come this season, with 48 states and Puerto Rico reporting widespread activity. But data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) late last week revealed that 32 states reported high levels of flu activity, with 21 of those saying their levels were higher than they've ever been before. In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000, according to the CDC.

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Dr. David Cutler of the Providence Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California, warned "Since there are multiple strains of flu virus going around, it is certainly possible to get the flu a couple of times".

CDC officials estimate there have been somewhere around 20,000 to 30,000 flu-related deaths so far this winter.

This is so even though you cannot catch the same strain twice, because you can get another strain if you are not immunized. But for the past two weeks, more illnesses have been tied to a more severe strain, H3N2, the CDC reports. This is the overall rate, with a higher proportion of people who are 65 and older requiring hospitalization (107 per every 100,000), followed by children up to age 4 (49 per every 100,000) and then people between the ages of 50 and 64 (48 per 100,000).

Last season, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications, the disease's highest death toll in at least four decades. Two deaths were associated with an influenza A virus for which no subtyping was performed and occurred during weeks six and nine - the weeks ending February 9 and March 2.