Flu season has arrived in the United States after a year of rest

Flu season has arrived in the United States after a year of rest.

NEW YORK – Flu season has arrived in the United States on schedule after a year off, with an increase in hospitalizations and at least two pediatric deaths reported.

Last year’s flu season was the lowest on record, likely because COVID-19 measures – school closings, distancing, masks, and canceled trips – prevented the spread of flu or because the coronavirus somehow pushed aside other viruses.

“This is gearing up to be a more normal flu season,” said Lynnette Brammer, who tracks flu-like illnesses for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Infant deaths, Brammer said, are “unfortunately what we would expect when flu activity increases. It is a sad reminder of how serious the flu can be.”

During last year’s unusually mild flu season, a child died. In contrast, 199 children died of influenza two years ago and 144 the year before.

According to the most recent data, the most intense flu activity was in the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, and the number of states with high flu activity increased from three to seven. In CDC figures released Monday, states with high flu activity are New Mexico, Kansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennessee, Georgia, and North Dakota.

The type of virus circulating this year tends to cause the most serious illness, especially in the elderly and very young, Brammer said.

The flu outbreak last year made it more difficult to plan for this year’s flu vaccine. So far, it appears that what’s circulating is in a slightly different subset than the vaccine is targeting, but it’s “really too early to tell” if that will reduce the effectiveness of the vaccine, Brammer said.

“We will have to see what the impact of these small changes will be,” Brammer said. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu.”

There are early signs that fewer people get the flu vaccine compared to last year. With hospitals already overwhelmed by COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot and take other precautions, Brammer said.

Cover your cough. Wash your hands. Stay home if you are sick, ”Brammer said. “If you do get the flu, there are antivirals you can talk about with your doctor that can prevent serious illness and help you stay out of the hospital.”

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