Widespread flu keeping local health departments, pharmacies on alert

Ga.'s flu death toll climbs to 51

London's public health agency is reporting five people dead in just one week. Seventeen patients now remain hospitalized.

The number of flu-related deaths in the state rose to 122 as of Monday morning, making the current flu season the deadliest since the state began closely tracking flu-linked deaths in 2000. But the epidemic is accelerating.

"In seasons where H3N2 is the main cause of influenza, we see more cases, more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more deaths", said Dan Jernigan the director of the Influenza Division at the CDC. Generally, flu season peaks in February or March, however, it could last through May.

Influenza cases have increased nationwide in recent weeks. Another hospital in the Atlanta area this week set up a mobile ER outside to handle flu cases. But a smaller portion of people (around 10 to 15 percent) are getting the H1N1 strain or the influenza B virus, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The proportion of Americans seeing their health care provider for influenza-like illnesses for the week ending January 13 was 6.3 percent, the highest percentage since the 2003-2004 season. Another 163 people have died from pneumonia, with pneumonia and influenza linked as a contributing factor in another 552 deaths.

The cold winter in many parts of the country may also have played a role, keeping people indoors and helping flu bugs to spread, said Dr. David Weber, a University of North Carolina flu expert.

A number of factors aligned this flu season, including the fact that the vaccine against the main strain of the flu is particularly ineffective.

The flu is still widespread in 48 states including both Kansas and Missouri and federal health officials fear it will likely get worse. Even though this flu shot is not standing up against this flu virus strain, it is stated that if you have the flu vaccine and do contract the flu, it will not be AS severe as if you hadn't. "If it's the first time ever having the shot (8 years old or younger), must get two shots, one month apart", she said.

Pace said along with taking precautions when she's out in public places, she also got the vaccine back in November. Bergen county reported the most with 972 cases, while Middlesex county reported 338 total cases of flu.

The U.S. flu vaccines are reviewed annually and updated to match the circulating flu viruses.

The Hen House is still providing flu shots on a walk-in basis.

If you get sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.

Another important way to avoid getting sick with the flu or other bugs is to "wash your stinking hands", as Florida nurse Katherine Lockler put it in a video that recently went viral.

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