Flu Is On Track To Infect 34 Million People In The US

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Hospitalizations among the 55- to 64-year-old age group and higher levels of influenza-like illness are where the records will be, Schuchat noted.

"We don't know if we have hit the peak yet", said Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director.

The Wall Street Journal reports that OJ sales have skyrocketed, rising from 0.9 percent to 38.66 million gallons, in the four weeks ending January 20.

Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.

As flu diagnoses continue to increase across New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has authorized counties to expand efforts that promote and increase access to flu vaccine and other prevention techniques.

The only good news: There was a drop in reports of people infected with Influenza A (H3N2), which is the type of flu that has infected the vast majority of people nationwide so far this season. "It was bad", she said of the illness that hit her on Christmas Day. The CDC said there is no evidence of antigenic drift in this year's H3N2 strain, and the explanation for this year's particularly high case numbers is still unknown. Pediatricians say they're inundated with panicked moms and dads concerned their sick child might have the flu.

With no predictable end in sight for the influenza season, the CDC advised Americans that it's not too late to get a flu shot.

This week's data indicated that flu activity remained widespread in 48 states.

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Unfortunately, the flu season probably won't start winding down anytime soon, Schuchat added.

While most flu-seasons last about 16 weeks, some have gone as long as 20 weeks.

But, as always, it's hard to predict whether flu activity will continue to increase in the coming weeks or if the worst may already be behind us.

Cases of influenza-like activity also continued to increase, with 7.7 percent of patient visits related to flu-like illness during the week ending February 3, up from 7.2 percent of visits the previous week. The Health Department is urging residents to get their flu shot to slow down and stop the spread of the flu virus. "Our pneumonia and influenza deaths are not very high compared with recent years, but more deaths are likely to happen".

There are a number of groups that are especially at risk for flu complications, including young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses and challenged immune systems, pregnant women, the extremely overweight, those under age 19 taking long-term aspirin therapy, and residents of nursing homes.

The vaccine is 34 percent effective at preventing the H3N2 strain and offers more protection against the H1N1 strain and B viruses. The vaccine may also reduce the severity of symptoms if you catch the flu despite getting vaccinated. The CDC is working with pharmacies, drug producers, and others to better distribute the medicines and alleviate spot shortages.

"Most don't need to be tested or see a doctor", Schuchat said.

"The commercial supply is there", she said so dipping into the strategic national stockpile is not necessary.

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