Influenza activity continues to increase nationally in the United States and in the state of Florida, health officials say the 2014-15 flu season is in full swing.
Current activity levels are above levels seen during previous years at this time. Influenza activity is highest in children and overall is widespread throughout Florida.
In week 52, thirty-nine of the 67 counties report flu activity increasing.
The following 26 counties are reporting moderate Influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) activity: Alachua, Baker, Bradford, Brevard, Broward, Columbia, Duval, Gadsden, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough, Holmes, Jackson, Jefferson, Lee, Levy, Madison, Marion, Okaloosa, Orange, Pasco,
Pinellas, Putnam, Seminole, St. Lucie and Walton.
Influenza A (H3) is the predominant strain seen in Florida and across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified an antigenically drifted influenza A (H3N2) strain circulating nationally and in Florida that is different from the strain of influenza A (H3N2) contained in the current 2014-15 influenza vaccine formulations.
While it is too early to tell if this flu season will be worse than other years, seasons when influenza A (H3) predominantly circulates are often associated with higher morbidity and mortality, particularly in the elderly and very young.
Three influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far in the 2014-15 influenza season.
The CDC says vaccination is still recommended as it provides some protection against drifted viruses and it can also protect against other circulating strains. People who have not yet been vaccinated should get vaccinated now.
In addition, the CDC recommends the use of neuraminidase inhibitor antiviral medications, when indicated, for treatment and prevention to influenza, as an adjunct to vaccination.
An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and 114,000 per year have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza infection.