By Alexander Keiser,
Domestic News Writer
The H1N1 virus, also known as the swine flu, is the same strain that caused a global pandemic in 2009 is back.
With a little over a month left in the flu season, which usually ends in March or April, health officials, according to the Los Angeles Times, are urging everyone over the age of six months, including pregnant women, to receive flu vaccinations.
According to the Washington Post, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said, overall the number of patients’ visits for flu-like symptoms is declining; some states, however, are still continuing to see high levels of flu symptoms and some are even seeing increases in diagnosis.
California has been one state in particular that has seen a drastic increase in flu. The Washington Post reported, there have been 243 deaths of residents younger than 65 years old. While last flu season, there were just 26 deaths by this time. According to the Washington Post, Virginia and Maryland have also seen widespread flu outbreaks in the past month, with 90 percent being the H1N1 strain.
The reported deaths are still only a small percentage of what they were back in 2009, but the death toll is higher than last year, according to the CDC. The Washington Post reported, that the flu, usually disproportionately affects the older and younger populations.
However, this strain of flu has seen a dramatic rise in the death rate of young and middle-aged persons.
CDC Spokesman, Jason McDonald, told the Washington Post, “These severe flu outcomes are a reminder that flu can be a very serious disease for anyone.” Studies released by the CDC say 61 percent of hospitalizations for the flu, this season, involved adults between the ages of 18 and 64. However, in past years, the percentage has been between 35 percent to 43 percent.
Although the percentage of hospitalizations is up, Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, told the Los Angeles Times, “Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself.”According to the Los Angeles Times, the reason why so many younger people are being hospitalized still remains unclear, but one reason might be that younger people are the least likely to obtain vaccinations.
Only 34 percent of people between 18 and 64 get annual flu shots.CDC reports that this year’s vaccine was about 62 percent effective.According to the Washington Post, scientists have also been working on a universal flu vaccine, which would allow for long-term protection and eliminate the need to receive the vaccine yearly, but even the most “optimistic say such a product is years away.”
As there has been a reemergence of H1N1 in the United States, according to the Washington Post, more dangerous strains are also popping up around the world.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been tracking more than 300 cases of people infected by H7N9, an avian influenza strain. WHO estimates a quarter of the infected have died.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 25 print edition.
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