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Dangerously high flu levels

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Dangerously high flu levels

The 2017-2018 flu season is becoming the worst flu in possibly a decade.

The 2017-2018 flu season is becoming the worst flu in possibly a decade.

The 2017-2018 flu season is becoming the worst flu in possibly a decade.

The 2017-2018 flu season is becoming the worst flu in possibly a decade.

Kathryn Juhasz, Ranger Review Reporter

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The 2017-2018 flu season is shaping up to be the worst outbreak of the flu virus in almost a decade and is continuing to get worse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to the CDC, the number of reported cases of the flu this season is close to rivaling the swine flu pandemic that struck in 2009.

The flu has resulted in 63 pediatric deaths nationwide so far in its cycle, 16 of which were in the week of January 21-27, and 10 were during the week ending February 3. It is not yet clear how many total deaths there have been from the flu this season.

In the CDC’s numbers for week 4 of the flu season (January 21-27), the flu is considered widespread in 48 states in the United States, as well as Puerto Rico. Oregon and Hawaii are the two states reporting lower levels of flu activity. These numbers remained the same for week five of flu season (January 28-February 3).

Flu season began back in October and flu activity greatly increased in January. This flu season is different from other seasons in two main ways: the flu hit almost all states at the same time and it has maintained a high level of occurrence for four consecutive weeks. This information comes from Daniel Jernigan, who is the director of the Influenza Division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at CDC.

“(There is) lots of flu occurring nationwide simultaneously over several weeks — this is an unusual pattern for flu in the US. This season is turning out to be a particularly challenging one,” said Jernigan in reference to the pattern for the flu this season.

This flu season appears to be mirroring the 2014-2015 flu season, in both severity and the number of reported and confirmed cases of the flu. Unlike the 2014-2015 season, this season is not appearing to plateau in mid-January like the 2014-2015 season did. This season appears to be continuing to rise, and it also seems to not have reached its peak yet.

One surprise with the flu this season is that one age group has been more affected this year than normal. People aged 65 and older have still been hit the hardest this flu season. Typically people aged 4 and under are the second hardest hit age group, but this year, that is not the case. Following people aged 65 and older are people aged 50-64 years old with the second-highest hospitalization rate for the flu and flu-like symptoms.

One of the reasons this flu season is much worse than others is because of which strain of flu is the most common in circulation this year, the H3N2 strain. This strain is harder to fight and prevent in comparison to other strains. It mutates and changes faster than other flu strains to get around the human immune system.

According to the CDC’s weekly flu report, the H3N2 strain is responsible for 78.3% of positive flu tests during week 5, and it is responsible for 88.2% of positive flu tests since October 1, 2017.

Along with being harder to fight, the H3N2 strain is also much harder to vaccinate against. A study done by researchers in Canada proved the flu vaccine to be only 10% effective against the H3N2 strain, but the vaccine provided more protection against other circulating strains.

People in the medical field are hoping for the number of reported new flu cases to begin slowing down, but it is still not clear when that will happen. Until reported cases begin to flatten out, numbers are still expected to rise at a sharp rate.

Professionals in the medical field continue to stress certain procedures to people from contracting and spreading the flu. Many of these recommendations have to do with basic hygiene techniques. Washing hands, avoiding contact with the eyes and the mouth, and cleaning and disinfecting surfaces frequently are all recommended techniques.  

They also recommend avoiding close contact with people that are sick and staying home if someone is sick to prevent others from contracting and spreading the flu.

To prevent the flu from worsening, people need to make sure they wash their hands, maintain good hygiene, and avoid contact with people who are sick. People should also disinfect surfaces that people who are sick could have come in contact with.  

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About the Writer
Kathryn Juhasz, Web Design

Kathryn Juhasz is a junior at Lewis-Palmer High School and she does the Ranger Review's web design and print design. She is on the Poms dance team at LP,...

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Dangerously high flu levels