The flu is soaring in Florida and 6 other states, the CDC reports
Florida Department of Health data show the bug seems to be affecting kids the most, with a majority of state outbreaks in child care facilities.
The U.S. flu season is underway, with Florida among at least seven states reporting high levels of illnesses, according to new flu data posted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Florida Department of Health data show the bug seems to be affecting children the most.
The CDC data, posted Friday, showed very high flu activity the week ending Nov. 11 in Louisiana, and high activity in Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, New Mexico and South Carolina.
Flu activity was also high in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory where health officials declared an influenza epidemic this month.
Seasonal activity continues to increase in most parts of the country, most notably in the South Central, Southeast and West Coast regions.
“We’re off to the races,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a Vanderbilt University infectious diseases expert.
According to the South Florida Sun Sentinel, most outbreaks in Florida this season have taken place in child care facilities.
The state Department of Health has also reported one child death this season from the flu. Last year, there were 12 deaths.
Flu season in Florida runs from September to March, with the peak typically being in January and February, so state health experts stress it’s not too late to get a flu shot.
In the U.S., about 35% of U.S. adults and 33% of children have been vaccinated against flu, current CDC data indicates. That's down compared to last year in both categories.
Flu vaccination rates are better than rates for the other two main respiratory viruses — COVID-19 and RSV. About 14% of adults and 5% of children have gotten the currently recommended COVID-19 shot, and about 13.5% of adults 60 and older have gotten one of the RSV shots that became available earlier this year.
Flu vaccines take up to two weeks to become fully effective however there are some immediate benefits to make it worth getting the shot before Thanksgiving.
The CDC reported flu activity was moderate but rising in New York City, Arkansas, California, Maryland, New Jersey, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas. And while flu activity has been high in Alaska for weeks, the state did not report data last week, so it wasn't part of the latest count.
Tracking during flu season relies in part on reports of people with flu-like symptoms who go to doctor's offices or hospitals; many people with the flu are not tested, so their infections aren’t lab-confirmed. COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses can sometimes muddy the picture.
Alicia Budd, who leads the CDC’s flu surveillance team, said several indicators are showing “continued increases” in flu.
There are different kinds of flu viruses, and the version that's been spreading the most so far this year usually leads to a lesser amount of hospitalizations and deaths in the elderly — the group on whom flu tends to take the largest toll.
So far this fall, the CDC estimates at least 780,000 flu illnesses, at least 8,000 hospitalizations and at least 490 flu-related deaths — including at least one child.
Budd said that it’s not yet clear exactly how effective the current flu vaccines are, but the shots are well-matched to the flu strains that are showing up.
Information the WLRN's Sherrilyn Cabrera and WUSF's Daylina Miller was used in this report.
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