The Flu Report: 12/10/14 December 10, 2014 By Cait Hartwyk Leave a Comment Image courtesy of flunearyou.org. Click here to view the interactive map. Influenza is spreading at its most rapid pace of the season, and the Centers for Disease Control have released a new report advising everyone to get vaccinated to avoid the worst of what looks to become a severe flu season. Overview: Flu is finally hitting its stride in the United States. As of the most recent reporting, only Region 7 (IA, KS, MO, NE) and Region 9 (AZ, CA, Guam, HI, NV) are not reporting widespread flu activity. Meanwhile, Region 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN) and Region 10 (AK, ID, OR, WA) remain the most affected areas with the most cases and highest positive tested specimen percentage respectively. CDC reported flu cases have nearly doubled from last week, and that may only be the start. A recent CDC press release says that this year could be a severe one for flu cases, hospitalizations, and deaths. The A strain of the influenza virus has, at least so far, been the most prevalent of the strains in circulation. Notably, many of these A strains, however, are ‘drift variants’ or mutations of the virus that make it different from the flu vaccine’s parameters. The last three times significant virus drift occurred was during the 2012-2013, 2007-2008 and 2003-2004 flu seasons, and these are the three seasons with the highest number of deaths over the last decade. Regardless of the circulating strains and composition of the vaccine, the CDC does still recommend flu vaccination as the best form of protection (addressed later in this Report). Once again, there has been a shift in where influenza is being contracted. Regions 4 (AL, FL, GA, KY, MS, NC, SC, TN), 5 (IL, IN, MI, MN, OH, WI) and 6 (AR, LA, NM, OK, TX) have had the most cases of all US regions, with 13 out of the 19 jurisdictions reporting widespread flu activity. Of all cases that have been documented, 93.6% have been Influenza A infections. Doctors have been advised to administer antiviral medications like Tamiflu (oseltamivir) and Relenza (zanamivir) to patients who contract the virus to avoid severe complications. By the Numbers: In the United States, the CDC has reported: Flu Cases (Laboratory Confirmed) – 2,274 (17.0% of tested specimens) Influenza A – 2,129 (93.6%) Influenza B – 145 (6.4%) Flu-related Deaths (Percentage) – 5.4% (1.1% below epidemic threshold) NOTE: Flu cases, as referenced above, are confirmed cases in people who have gone to see medical professionals. Percentage estimates, referenced in the “Overview” section, include these documented cases from medical professionals but also a variety of other self-reported metrics. Around the World: Flu conditions throughout Western Europe remain somewhat positive, but other regions are experiencing increased virus spread. Mexico, Russia, and Austria are all rated as having a high level of flu activity according to Google Flu Trends. Most other nations in the Northern Hemisphere are either at moderate levels of activity or are quickly moving toward this measure, underlining the point made in the previously mentioned CDC report that influenza activity is picking up. Staying Healthy: Our tip for this week: get a flu shot! The most important piece of advice the CDC gave in its latest report was for everyone to get a flu shot to mitigate virus spread and help lessen the effects if a ‘drift strain’ of the virus is contracted. While Influenza A is the most common strain right now, that may change over the remainder of the flu season making vaccination even more important, especially for high risk individuals like the elderly or the immunocompromised. For additional help and advice, contact a Passport Health flu professional at 1-888-499-PASS (7277), and we’ll help you schedule your flu vaccination today. The Flu Report is a weekly blog post designed to give updates on the spread of influenza throughout the year. It is posted every Wednesday and focuses on regional outbreaks, global spread and ways to avoid infection.