The flu has reached epidemic levels in the U.S. this season according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
Statistics released this week, show that the influenza virus outbreak reached the epidemic threshold during the week ending Dec. 20.
"At this time, all of CDC's influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated flu activity, indicating that we are in the midst of this season's flu epidemic," said Erin Burns of the CDC told USA Today.
According to the CDC, a total of 15 influenza related pediatric deaths have been reported during the 2014-2015 season across the U.S. The deaths were reported in nine different states: Arizona (1), Colorado (1), Florida (2), Minnesota (2), North Carolina (2), Nevada (1), Ohio (2), Texas (3), and Virginia (1).
— CDC Flu (@CDCFlu) December 29, 2014
During the week ending Dec. 20, 22 states reported a high level of "influenza-like illness" activity, marking an increase from the previous week when just 13 states were reporting this level. The flu outbreak has effected every region of the country.
The CDC, says the single best way to protect against the virus is the flu vaccine. Unfortunately, this is not an exhaustive measure though, as the vaccine is designed to protect against the flu viruses that research indicates will be most chartph.common during the upchartph.coming season.
"Traditional flu vaccines (called trivalent vaccines) are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, there are flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines)," according to the CDC. "These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine and an additional B virus."
— CDC (@CDCgov) December 30, 2014
The harsh flu season in the U.S. was predicted by the CDC at the beginning of December, when the agency warned that the flu season could be "severe" due to the fact the seasonal influenza A H3N2 viruses had been most chartph.commonly identified. There often are more severe flu illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths during seasons when these viruses predominate, according to the CDC.
Further adding to the issue, half of the viruses the CDC had analyzed were variants of the genetic makeup of the viruses used in chartph.commonly distributed vaccines, reducing vaccine effectiveness.
Elsewhere, although levels are high in the UK, flu cases, according to Public Health England, are not as high as peak seasons in 2010/11 and 2008/09, however the number of lab reports for norovirus in the season to date is 4 percent higher overall than the five-year seasonal average.