It was reported earlier this week that 202 people under the age of 65 in California alone have died due to severe cases of influenza. This number is a dramatic increase from last year’s death toll of 18. California is one of many states that have seen a statewide pandemic, and now the CDC says we may have not seen its worst days, reporting that the flu season is likely to continue into March.
Included among the deaths in California was a baby who died from whooping cough, the first since 2010 when there were more than 10 deaths of 9,100 cases reported. The epidemic is known to strike every three to four years.
Whooping cough is a disease in the lining tract of the respiratory caused by a bacterium known as pertussis. Symptoms include runny nose, sneezing, mild fever and coughs which end in a “whoop” sound, progressively exacerbating as days pass. These symptoms usually begin between five days to three weeks after being exposed. The most vulnerable age group is between seven weeks and age 20, with the majority being children under the age of six. For younger infants sometimes a cough may not occur, but signs of the disease can be seen if the baby’s face turns purple or red.
North of the border, between mid December and Feb. 6, there have been 6 cases of whooping coughs in Prince Edward Island, with possibly more that have yet to be confirmed. The province states this has not been seen in years. The growing whooping cough epidemic this year is just an extension of how bad the flu season has progressed over the past few months.
Though no influenza mortality numbers have been released nationwide in either Canada or the U.S., the latest CDC weekly report from Jan.26-Feb.1 says 29 U.S. states have declared widespread influenza activity. This number is a decrease from the 38 states in the previous week, but nevertheless still a major concern. It cannot be predicted whether we have seen the worst and its going to die down or if it will peak in the days to come. However, there is one likely certainty and that is the flu season will continue into March. Thus, precautions should be taken.
As we head into next month it is advised for people to do their part in not spreading the flu, which means taking a day off from school or work if you are sick and not going back until 24 hours after your temperature breaks. Symptoms such as shortness of breath or high fever should be talked about with your doctor.
One of the more important advice the CDC gives is that it is not to late to get your flu shot. Vaccinations are provided in some areas until May. This is most especially important for pregnant women who were struck the hardest compared to non-pregnant women in 2009 during the H1N1 outbreak.
The CDC now reports that 90 percent of the time during the past 20 seasons flu activity has seen its worst days from January until March. There are still a few weeks to go until next month and then several weeks following. Thus, the importance of flu vaccinations this season cannot be emphasized any more. It is also crucial to make sure hands are washed regularly and ensuring sneezes and coughs are contained.
By Kollin Lore