The current flu season is on track to be one of the worst in years, Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN earlier this month.
CNN reports that Fauci says the 2019-2020 flu season is on track to be as severe as the 2017-2018 season, which was the deadliest in at least a decade.
On Jan. 10, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a health advisory reminding clinician that influenza B viruses can cause severe illness in people of all ages, including children and reiterating vaccination and antiviral treatment recommendations.
New data from the CDC released the first week of January estimates that so far, this season, at least 6.4 million people have caught the flu.
The frightening numbers also relate that 55,000 people have been hospitalized and 2,900 people have died — 800 more people then were estimated from the week before.
According to the CDC, people aged 65 and older, particularly with cardiac conditions, are at a greater risk for serious complications from the flu. This is because the immune system typically weakens with age.
Four influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far, this season, all in unvaccinated children. The surgeon general has advised parents who have not vaccinated their children for the 2019-2020 season to do so as soon as possible.
While reports for Florida flu activity have decreased in the past two weeks, Dr. Rivkees says it is too early to say if activity has peaked yet for the season. Elevated activity is still expected and likely for several more weeks.
“Older persons must take even more caution,” said Dr. Sheldon Warman, a prominent Fort Lauderdale internist, who is a member of the MD VIP program, offering patients immediate and professional care for an annual fee.
The MD VIP plan enables a patient to employ a singular physician to “quarterback” your health care planning needs. Dr. Warman’s offices are at 4700 North Federal Highway in Fort Lauderdale.
Speaking to SFGN, he advised that if you see symptoms, or get taken ill, you should talk to a physician immediately upon the outset of your illness: “It is absolutely nothing to be taken lightly. If you do get sick, you may need a regimen of prescription antivirals to make your illness milder to potentially prevent further serious flu complications. They need to be administered right away.”
Dr. Warman cautioned SFGN that a flu infection can worsen and complicate existing health conditions.
“More particularly,” he said, “patients living with heart and lung disease, compromised immune systems, or asthma, must take extra precautions.” The CDC carved out similar advice in their January advisory.
While flu activity is widespread across the United States, CDC officials said it's too early to know what the final numbers will be.
From 2010 to 2018, flu-related deaths in the United States have ranged from 12,000 to 61,000.
This year, health officials are predicting the numbers will again come down on the high side of the spectrum.
“Be safe,” Dr. Warman said. “Take your meds. Practice good hygiene. Get a proper amount of exercise, rest, and stay within your limits.”
Graphic via the CDC