Influenza B Virus Making a Strong Spring Appearance

influenzaThe Influenza strain B virus is making a strong appearance, although spring is not its usual time of year. This strain of the flu is not the same one that was making people sick mid-winter. This means that even if someone has already had the virus once this flu season, they can still get it again.

In New York, 648 people became sick with the flu and had to be hospitalized during the first week of April. According the New York Health Department, this is more than any other week since the season began in October. The B strain of the virus began to show up in the beginning of February, and gained ground in March. The H1N1 strain, a subcategory of influenza A, was the virus that was making people sick at the beginning of flu season.

The numbers have also jumped in Boston, Massachusetts. There were 116 cases of influenza from March 30 to April 5, in the city. That brings Boston’s total to 1,237 for the year. The spike and the unusual timing of it, caused the Boston Public Health Commission to issue a flu advisory, since it is clear that the virus has not yet run its course. Last year, the virus reached its peak at the beginning of January.

In California, the influenza B virus is making a strong springtime appearance in a fatal way. During the week of March 16 to March 22, there were 342 influenza-related deaths. During the flu season last year, there were 106 deaths reported for the whole season. These deaths usually occur in seniors, the very young, or the sick because they are the most susceptible to serious complications.

The flu is rapidly spreading in New Jersey. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated all areas of the state as high, for the spread of the virus. A spokesman for the CDC revealed that it is more widespread in New Jersey than it is in other states. At Ocean Medical Center in Brick, there has been an increase in flu patients over the last three weeks, with most people in the 25 to 40-year-old category.

Experts are not sure why influenza B has seen a rise in case numbers well into the spring. Director of infection prevention at Ellis Medicine in New York, Eve Bankert, said the cold, drawn-out winter might have had something to do with the longer flu season. She also said that typically the virus declines and the B strain takes over near the end, saying, however, that ” this is a resurgence.”

The flu symptoms are the same with both A and B strains. They include cough, sore throat, headache, chills, fever, and muscle aches. Severe complications like pneumonia, can also result. The CDC still recommends the flu vaccine. The vaccination for this season will work well against both H1N1 and influenza B. It is considered to be 60 percent effective, though it is lower in the elderly.

Since the springtime has seen the influenza B virus make such a strong appearance, people are urged to take some precautions. People are advised to wash their hands thoroughly, stay away from people who have the flu, avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth, and get the flu vaccine.

By Twanna Harps

Sources

UPI
Times Union
Boston.com
NJ.com