Flu virus spreading faster than last season, 4 states already have widespread cases (map)

Flu virus spreading faster than last season, 4 states already have widespread cases
flu shot
Posted at 3:31 PM, Dec 04, 2017
and last updated 2017-12-04 15:31:00-05

CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - The spread of the flu is moving quicker this year than last, with four states already in the "widespread" category according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention

The flu shot is reportedly only 10 percent effective against the most dominate strain this year which is H3N2. 

The CDC tracks the spread of the flu with a weekly map showing which states are reporting the most cases. 

Last year at this time there were no states in the widespread category.

This year, for the last week in November, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Georgia and Massachusetts have hit that mark already. 

The CDC put each state into one of the following categories depending on how many cases are being reported by each state's health department with widespread being the worst:

  • No Activity
  • Sporadic
  • Local Activity
  • Regional
  • Widespread
  • No Report

This time last year, only 21 counties in Florida were reporting increased flu activity. This year, almost 10 more counties are reporting increased influenza activity.

There also more counties reporting moderate activity than last year.

Who chooses the strains for the flu shot?

The H3N2 strain that is dominant this year was first seen in Australia's flu season.

But who picks the strains to put into the flu shot?

"Researchers gather at the (World Health Organization) twice a year and try to predict which strains will circulate in the northern and southern hemispheres," Dr. Amy Edwards said, who is with the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital. 

It's not as simple as watching Australia and then fighting the flu in the United States, but the general consensus in the medial community is that it will be a bad flu season this year, according to Edwards. 

"Most assume it will be bad, but there is an ongoing debate about whether our flu season follows the Southern hemisphere or whether the southern hemisphere follows us," Edwards said. "We had a bad season last year so maybe they are having a bad season following us. But maybe we will follow them. So far there haven’t been a lot of cases here in Cleveland but it is early days yet."

Short of locking yourself in a closet for the next four months, Edwards gave the following reminders to stay healthy:

  • Wash your hands
  • Don’t touch your face 
  • Cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough (with your elbow or a tissue)
  • Stay home when you are sick

Staying home when you are sick is one of the more important tips. 

"If everyone actually followed this advice and stayed home when they had a fever, it would be much easier to control outbreaks," Edwards warned. 

You are most contagious when you have a fever.

"Remember a fever is the body’s way of killing off viral particles because viruses can’t live at those higher temperatures," Edwards said. 

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