The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recently put the country on alert, warning that this year’s flu season and the H3N2 virus could be one of the worst in recent years as hospitals experience record setting hospitalization rates. Physicians for the CDC warned Americans over the age of 65-years old are being hospitalized at a higher rate than any other segment of the population and elders need to take care to ensure they do not fall victim to complications with the virus.
CDC Director Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald cautioned that although infection rates appear to be peaking, many more Americans will be diagnosed with the flu in the coming weeks before flu season ends across the country. While recent years have been categorized as “active” flu seasons, where large numbers of people become sick, this year is expected to be “severe” with an unusually number of patients being diagnosed with some form of the flu virus.
Fortunately, this year does not appear as though it will be as bad as the 2015 flu season where infection rates were as high as 29.9 people out of every 100,000. The flu typically hits populations at the ends of the spectrums, the very young and the very old, with at least 20-children succumbing to the virus this season so far. The only silver lining to these tragedies is that the numbers are far less than in years past, 110 last year and 92 in 2016.
Although officials believed this year’s current iteration of the flu virus may not be effective against active strains of the virus, recent data suggests immunizations success should be much higher than in other countries experiencing their own outbreaks. Even still, flu immunizations tend only to protect about one-third of those who receive them, depending on the threat faced from flu strains in the overall population. Immunization success rates for this year expected to come out sometime in the middle of Februrary.
The CDC notes flu outbreaks are especially high in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, making seniors especially vulnerable to infection. One theory is that an individual’s ability to fight the flu virus comes from his or her previous experiences, particularly early ones, with the flu. Those living today who were not exposed to various of the strains circulating may not be as well equipped to fight of infections, especially with weakened immune systems as they grow older.