CDC: Flu Hits Epidemic Level; Tips for Protection

The current flu season has hit epidemic levels nationwide based on year-end data from Florida and other states, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“The 2014-15 flu season is in full swing in Florida,” according to a Florida Department of Health statement. “Influenza activity continues to increase nationally.”

The CDC’s assessment of an “epidemic” flu level is based on reports of high rates of “influenza-like illness” from Florida and 21 other states for the week ending Dec. 20. Those high-level flu reports from 22 states is up from only 13 states reporting high levels of flu illnesses the previous week, according to the CDC.

“At Baptist Health, we are seeing higher numbers of patients with flu-like symptoms coming into our hospitals, urgent care centers and primary care offices during the last few weeks,” said Tomas Villanueva, D.O., medical director for Baptist Health Medical Group. “Our holidays were pretty busy.”

In using the term “epidemic level,” the CDC upgraded an early December statement forecasting that the 2014-2015 flu season could be “severe.” At that time, federal health officials also said that much of the influenza virus already in circulation has mutated and is affecting even those who have had their flu shots.

Nonetheless, CDC urges immediate flu shots for anyone still unvaccinated this season. The CDC also recommends prompt treatment with antiviral drugs for people at high risk of complications from the flu. Proper hand washing is also important tool in the battle against the flu.

“It’s important now more than ever for adults and children to practice proper hygiene,” said Barbara Russell, R.N., director of Infection Prevention and Control Services for Baptist Hospital. “The most common way that the flu and enteroviruses are spread is by people coughing into their hands and then shaking hands, or by leaving germs on hard surfaces where someone else can get them on their hands.”

Here are other tips:

  • Avoid touching your face, especially your eyes, mouth and nose, which are openings in which the virus could enter, Dr. Villanueva said.
  • Use liquid hand sanitizers if you do not have access to soap and water, especially if you feel as if are coming down with the flu or have been exposed to the flu virus.
  • Avoid hand-to-hand greetings.
  • “Try fist bumps and elbow-to-elbow nudges. That’s far safer than handshakes at this time of the year,” Dr. Villanueva said.

    The flu is as an upper respiratory disease or infection that is caused by different strains of the influenza virus.  Every year 15 percent to 40 percent of people in the U.S. develop the flu, which causes about 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations due to the flu or complications linked to the flu, according to the CDC.

    In Florida, state officials have reported “widespread influenza activity,” for three consecutive weeks, including the last week of the year. The majority of counties in the state — 39 of the 67 counties — have reported increased flu activity.

    “People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza,” according to state health officials.

    Emergency Department (ED) visits linked to flu illnesses have also increased statewide, according to Florida Health officials.  A  higher-than-anticipated number of pregnant women in Florida are seeking emergency care because of the flu

    “There continues to be increased levels of influenza in pregnant women presenting to EDs for care that is above expected levels for this time of year. Pregnant women are among those at high risk for severe complications due to influenza infection,” according to state health officials.

    Healthcare that Cares

    With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

    Language Preference / Preferencia de idioma

    I want to see the site in English

    Continue In English

    Quiero ver el sitio en Español

    Continuar en español