2017-18 flu season expected to be one of worst in years

Posted at 10:39 AM, Jan 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-10 10:39:00-05

(WLS/CNN) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports widespread flu activity in 46 states, and officials predict the season could be as severe as 2014-15.

Officials say this will be a “very substantial influenza season,” with the bug being especially bad in California where 27 deaths are linked to it.

"All this getting together closely over the holidays and now locked in because of the cold and the snow, that will enhance the transmission of flu,” said Dr. William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University.

The season could be as severe as the one in 2014-15, officials say, which was the most severe flu season in years.

The H3N2 virus, a.k.a. influenza A, is the main strain making people sick, and it’s tough to fight.

"That strain of flu tends to change more rapidly than other strains from the time we know it's circulating to the time the vaccine is made,” said Dr. Sharon Welbel with the Cook County Health and Hospitals System.

To make matters worse, some pharmacies are dealing with temporary shortages of flu medications, due to demand.

The CDC says you can help limit the spread of the flu by washing your hands often and disinfecting spots that are touched frequently.

Of course, officials say it’s never too late to get a flu shot.

"Even if it's not 100 percent effective, it still reduces the number of hospitalizations and can make the illness more mild if you do get the flu,” said Jennifer Layden with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

The World Health Organization reports flu activity is also high throughout much of Europe this season.

Copyright 2018 via WLS, HLN, CDC via CNN. All rights reserved.