This flu season is now in decline, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Officials at the agency say there is a 90 percent chance that the flu season has reached its peak. Widespread prevalence of the flu is decreasing and the number of states reporting significant numbers of flu cases is falling.
Official are warning to still expect high flu activity for the next few weeks. While a mild strain of flu has been the most common cause of illnesses for most of the season, a wave of a stronger strain of the virus has been widespread across the Southeast in the past two weeks. It’s not unusual for several flu strains to spread around the country at the same time, but one kind usually predominates.
This stronger strain of the virus, called Type A H3N2, is dangerous because it poses a more significant risk to the elderly, causing hospitalizations and deaths. The CDC says that roughly 60 percent of the flu virus samples tested last week were of this strain.
Officials at the agency estimate there have been between 20,000 to 30,000 flu-related deaths so far this flu season. In recent years, flu-related deaths have ranged from about 12,000 to 56,000. Throughout last year’s flu season, an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and its complications. That was the highest death toll for the disease in about 40 years.
Even though flu season is in decline, it is not too late to get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months should get vaccinated against the flu annually. Anyone who becomes sick, vaccinated or not, should contact their health care provider because antiviral drugs may be needed to reduce the severity and duration of the illness.