FRIDAY, Jan. 20, 2017 (HealthDay News) — Flu activity continues to rise across the United States and there’s been a slight uptick in the number of deaths in the last week, federal health officials reported Friday.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s still not too late to get a flu shot. That’s particularly important for the most vulnerable — the very young, the elderly, the chronically ill and pregnant women, officials said.
“It would have been better to get vaccinated early, but there is still potential benefit from the vaccine,” Lynnette Brammer, a CDC epidemiologist, said Friday.
She said flu activity is “still going up — fairly slowly — but it’s still increasing.”
“We are starting to see an increase in flu-related deaths,” she added, “although deaths aren’t at a level considered epidemic.”
The CDC doesn’t track the number of adults who die from flu, but it does keep tabs on child deaths.
“Two more children died this week, bringing the total to five so far,” Brammer said.
Last year, 128 children died from flu-related complications, according to the CDC.
Brammer said flu activity is picking up in the center of the country, which was reporting low activity only a week ago.
“Some places like the Northwest may have peaked, but it looks like areas that haven’t been hit hard are starting to see activity,” she said. “Even if we were at peak, you’ve still got half the season to go.”
The dominant flu strain continues to be H3N2, which often signals a severe season that affects the oldest and the youngest the hardest, Brammer said.
On the plus side: this year doesn’t seem as severe as the most severe H3 years, she said.
H1N1 and B viruses are also circulating, Brammer said.
This year’s vaccine contains all the circulating viruses, she said.
The CDC recommends that anyone aged 6 months and older get a flu shot. Besides the elderly and the chronically ill, pregnant women also fall into the high-risk group in need of vaccination.