FRIDAY, Dec. 14, 2018 (HealthDay News) — Flu season is getting off to a slow but steady start, a U.S. health official said Friday.
As of now, only Georgia is seeing high levels of infections, but cases are being reported throughout the nation.
“Flu activity is still fairly low, but as expected we have been seeing activity slowly increasing over the last few weeks,” said Alicia Budd, an epidemiologist at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It’s too soon to tell how bad this year’s flu season will be. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball to know how badly we are going to fare during this flu season,” Budd said.
Peak activity can occur anytime between December and February, she said.
The most common type of flu around now is influenza A H1N1, which is accounting for about 80 percent of the flu viruses being reported, Budd said.
In addition, another A strain, H3N2, is also being seen, making up about 20 percent of the viruses reported, she said.
“H3N2 is out there, but at much lower levels than we saw last year,” Budd said. It was that strain that made flu so severe last year, when 1 million people were hospitalized and 80,000 died.
Both of these types of flu are included in this season’s flu vaccine, as well as one or two influenza B strains. This year’s vaccine seems well matched to these strains, so it will most likely be more effective than last year’s vaccine, Budd said.
Because H1N1 is the predominant flu strain around now, she thinks the vaccine‘s effectiveness could be as high as 65 percent.
It’s not too late to get vaccinated, Budd said. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot, it’s time, she said. It can take up to two weeks for your body to mount a protective immune response.
“Now is the time to get vaccinated while flu activity is low, especially if you’re going to get together with family over the holidays,” Budd said.