The flu season is at its peak, and is affecting more people under 40 years of age than in past epidemics. Typically, the influenza spread affects the elderly and those with other medical conditions. Some experts are saying that the H1N1 virus is actually changing and becoming more virulent.
In Gainesville, Florida, at the University of Florida’s UF Health Shands Hospital, twelve patients have died from the flu. Five of those patients were under 40. The severity of this season of influenza is also increasing with each new report.
Physicians are saying that this may be a new strain of virus, although the majority of the cases are H1N1. At Shands Hospital, eleven of the twelve who died had not had the influenza vaccine. More than 150 other patients have had the flu and recovered. There was no information on the number of those who had received the inoculation.
In the Bay area and Marin County, California, the death toll has reached nine. One patient was 23 and the other only 48. The Centers for Disease Control, (CDC), has stated that the virus is circulating in a wider path and that sickness is affecting the young in disproportion to cases of the elderly or of those persons afflicted with other diseases.
The CDC recommends that all persons receive the H1N1 influenza vaccine, as it will protect against other strains of the flu. In the past, they would have liked to have the elderly, the very young and the medically challenged immunized. With new deaths of those under 40 from the flu, however, it is apparent that age is not a factor in deciding whether or not to get vaccinated. When school-age children receive the flu vaccine, it can keep the virus from infecting the older population.
Medical experts say that January and February are traditionally the peak of the flu season, when most cases are seen in hospitals. However, it is not too late to receive the flu vaccine, and it is a high priority for healthcare workers to make patients aware of this fact.
In North Carolina, 21 people were hit with the flu bug and it was a fatal hit. Of those deaths, 19 were adults in their 20’s through 50’s. Many of these cases included patients who had other medical conditions. The flu has been affecting North Carolina residents since mid-December.
Some precautions that can be taken to prevent getting or spreading the flu virus are regular and thorough hand washing, using tissues or masks to keep sneezes and coughs contained and away from others, throwing old tissues away, and staying home from work if suffering with flu symptoms. The best prevention, however, is to get the flu shot. Many drug stores have these vaccinations available to the walk-in public, and they usually take insurance for payment.
If a person becomes ill, it is important to see a health provider right away. The earlier the patient sees a doctor, the better chance of treating the virus and recovering. The flu season is at its peak, so take precautions to keep the spread as narrow as possible.
By Lisa M Pickering