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Health News Florida

Flu Activity Surges Above Last Year's Peak

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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Flu activity in Florida increased statewide last week and is now above last year's peak activity, according to the Florida Department of Health.

Notbable increases in the virus were seen in all regions of Florida except the southeast. Sixteen counties reported moderate flu activity, up from nine in the previous week.  Elevated levels of influenze are expected for several more weeks, the health department said. So far this year, 89 outbreaks have been reported in Florida. 

No new deaths were reported, the health department said. 

Dr. Juan Dumois, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, said the hospital has seen increased flu activity since January, and it is likely related to students returning from the holiday break.

“As they returned to school, they started re-exposing each other and then bringing those infections back home to infect their family members who weren't exposed at school,” said Dumois.

Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.

The CDC estimates that from Oct. 1, 2018 through Jan. 26, 2019, there were 10.1 million – 11.7 million flu illnesses, 4.7 million – 5.6 million  flu medical visits, and 118,000 – 141,000  flu hospitalizations.

Dumois said of the children with the flu in his emergency room, 86 percent did not get the flu vaccine. The remaining 14 percent who received the vaccine had less severe symptoms.

And, he said, it’s not too late to get vaccinated even though it's not guaranteed to stop the virus.

"It doesn't create a force field barrier. You still get infected with the flu, but you either don't get sick at all or you get a milder flu illness than if you hadn't been vaccinated."

More than 80,000 people in the United States - including 180 children - died during the 2017-2018 season because of the flu, according to the CDC.