Influenza cases in the U.S. have started increasing rapidly per the latest reports. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that southern states of the U.S. are experiencing most of the H1N1 (or swine flu) infections, with Texas reporting the highest incidents. Along with Texas, North Carolina and Utah are among the worst affected states.
Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of Epidemiology and Prevention for the CDC’s Influenza Division, said, “We are seeing a big uptick in disease in the past couple of weeks.” The H1N1 strain changes every year, so vaccinations are required every year in order to prevent it. It is a respiratory illness which is very contagious, and there are several ways it can spread.
According to Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Alberta, Dr. Martin Lavoie, the symptoms can include headaches, sore throat, cough, respiratory problems, joint pains and even pneumonia, in more extreme cases. The H1N1 vaccine does not cause much pain, according to microbiologist Dr. Glen Armstrong. After the vaccine is administered, it may cause a bit of soreness around the place of injection, which should subside within 24 hours.
H1N1 peaks during the month of November and hits hard in January. In 2009 and 2010, almost 284,000 people were killed by the influenza virus. Currently, there is no vaccine for the H1N1 outbreak, but it can be prevented by annual shots of flu medication.
Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer from the flu division of the CDC, said, “We’re seeing pretty substantial increases in activity.” He added that there are several pockets of the country that are seeing increased activity of the influenza virus.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 25 people have died from influenza, with North Carolina reporting 13 deaths so far. The officials of Health and Human Services also confirmed two deaths in Salt Lake City. In New York, influenza cases were reported in over 4o of 62 counties. Children are especially susceptible to this disease, and at least six have died. The figures are quite disturbing, and new cases continue to increase.
The situation is such that the CDC is urging U.S. citizens to get the influenza vaccine as soon as possible. With the rapid increase in influenza cases in the U.S., authorities are scrambling to cope with the situation. The CDC has collected data from 13 states, which represent 8.4 percent of the U.S. population. The compiled data shows that there have been 1583 cases of H1N1 infection reported since October.
Dr. Bresee said there is still time to get vaccinated and prevent family members from infection by the H1N1 virus. Even if influenza cases increase rapidly throughout the U.S., a proper vaccine can save a lot of trouble and money. The Texas Department of Health suggests citizens get the influenza vaccine even if tests come out negative. While the vaccination is crucial, the importance of doctor consultation is also something everyone should keep in mind. There are specific doses of the medication which has to be followed, so professional help is mandatory.
By Sunando Basu