CDC releases new numbers on flu activity

Simulated flu virus

New Canaan, CT. – New numbers from the CDC show that while flu activity is decreasing overall, it remains high around the country. Many patients are also choosing to see their doctor online for suspected flu.

The Martinez family chose to see a pediatrician online instead of heading to the doctor’s office. Two of the kids are sick with the flu and their mother, Karla Martinez, says “They don’t have to just get dressed up and get in the car and just go out of the house.”

Dr. Kathleen Berchelmann says more patients are using telemedicine to see doctors virtually during flu season. “You can get a full exam via telehealth for the flu. We can send you to a laboratory for testing if necessary – blood tests, flu test, chest x-ray,” according to Dr. Berchelmann.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says flu activity has declined over the last few weeks but still remains high. Flu B viruses which tend to impact children have been dominating, but Dr. Dan Jernigan, the director of the influenza division at the CDC, says “We are starting to see influenza A viruses also increasing, so exactly what that means we don’t know.”

While there’s a lot of flu activity, the CDC says hospitalizations and deaths are not high at this point in the season. Flu B viruses tend to cause less severe illness, especially in older adults. So far there have been at least 13 million flu illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6,600 deaths, according to the CDC.

The CDC reports 39 of the deaths were kids. Dr. Jernigan says, “The majority of those deaths are in kids that had influenza B infections and only about 8% of those were vaccinated. We know the vaccine can be effective in preventing death.”

With weeks of flu ahead, federal health officials say it’s still not too late to get your shot. The CDC says data so far indicates the vaccine, overall, is a pretty good match, but it will be several weeks before health officials know for sure.