CDC reports widespread flu across country; rougher strain prevalent this year

Chances are, you’ve probably seen the headlines this past week: the CDC urging people to get their flu shots…. even if we’re already in the height of the flu season. BUT, did you know there’s still approximately 12 weeks left in the 2018 season?

For the first time since the CDC began tracking flu activity in the early 2000’s, the flu is widespread across the continental U.S., including Washington. And it’s also a rough flu strain this year.

In a recent health advisory from the CDC, they say Influenza A — specifically H3N2 – is more prevalent this year. In the past, A(H3N2) has been associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in the elderly and young children AND the flu shot is less effective against it compared to other strains.

The CDC says the flu shot might only be roughly 30% effective against A(H3N2) this year, but they’re still recommending getting the shot for both increased protection and to [possibly] make the flu milder if you do catch it.

If you develop flu symptom, the CDC also stresses the importance of seeing your doctor immediately as antiviral medications “are most effective in treating influenza and reducing complications when treatment is started early.” Symptoms usually begin within about 1-4 days after exposure, but the average is two days.

CDC Signs and Symptoms of Flu

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms that usually start suddenly, not gradually:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (very tired)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in young children than in adults.

The CDC recommends staying home from school or work for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone. You can pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. You are most contagious during the first 3-4 days after the flu starts.

Per the CDC: “Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.”

According to King County Health, for the week ending January 13th:

  • The percent of visits to King County emergency departments  for influenza-like illness is above baseline levels and above the 5-year average for this time of year.
  • Patients aged 65+ made up the largest proportion of emergency room visits for influenza symptoms.
  • There were 3 new long-term care facility outbreaks and 4 influenza related deaths were reported. Thirteen long-term care facility outbreaks and 9 influenza related deaths have been reported this season.
  • The University of Washington Virology lab data shows an increase in influenza A reports as well as circulating rhinovirus and RSV.

The Snoqualmie Valley Hospital has been reminding residents that flu shots are still available at its Snoqualmie Ridge Clinic and Hospital Clinic.  Local pharmacies – like Safeway, QFC and Bartell Drugs – also offer walk-in flu shots, often times completely covered by insurance.


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