by Allen J. Sheinman | February 13, 2018
The current flu epidemic in the United States continues to surge, with 48 states and Puerto Rico reporting "widespread" incidences of the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only Hawaii and Oregon have not seen high rates of illness.
 
For the week of Jan. 28-Feb. 3, the most recent period for which statistics are available from the CDC, 16,641 respiratory specimens tested positive for flu in clinical labs (up from 15,427 the week before), a 26.3 percent rate for all specimens. A total of 124,316 cases of flu have been reported in the U.S. since Oct. 1, 2017. The most common strain by far is influenza A (H3N2).
 
Since Oct. 1, a total of 17,101 laboratory-confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations have been reported, representing 59.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. The highest hospitalization rate is among people 65 years and older (263.6 per 100,000). Children also have been hit hard; 10 influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to the CDC during the week of Jan. 28, for a total of 63 such deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season. (Several more pediatric deaths have been attributed to the flu since that report, including one in New York and one in New Jersey this week.)
 
It should be noted that the above statistics represent reported/tested cases of the virus; many more Americans are suspected of suffering from the flu without it being tallied by the CDC.
 
The federal health agency continues to recommend that people get a flu shot if they have not had one this season; wash their hands often; avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth to prevent spread of germs; and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that might be contaminated with germs like the flu.
 
As M&C recently reported, the CDC has more detailed recommendations specifically for minimizing the spread of flu at meetings.