Flu Season Expected To be Harsher This Year
Health officials say the United States could have a harsher than usual flu season, and is already showing influenza activity above the national baseline for the first time this season.
Michael Wiese, an epidemiologist for the Department of Health in Hillsborough County, said while flu seasons can be hard to predict, this year's strain could be concerning.
"The strain that's been detected as the primary circuiting strain of flu virus can cause more severe illness than some of the other strains," Wiese said.
Most flu activity peaks between December and February, but in Florida so far, the highest number of outbreaks have been seen in the Tampa Bay area.
Most of those were in places like nursing homes and day cares - populations that are most at risk.
Health officials like Maggie Hall, with the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County, say that could be an early indication of a more severe influenza season early next year.
She said it's not too late to vaccinate, but do it now before your holiday parties.
“That's when people get together in small spaces sharing germs,’ Hall said.
The vaccine can take up to two weeks to be fully effective.
Estimates are that between 15 percent and 40 percent of the population will develop illness from influenza every year. An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and 114,000 per year have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza infection.
For the most current information about influenza in Florida, please see Florida's Weekly Surveillance Report, the Florida Flu Review.