More Severe Flu Strain Starts to Spread Widely

In terms of the severity of the season, Brammer said that no flu season is mild. The severity of the season is simply a comparison between seasons. “There are no good flu seasons,” she said.

The death toll of flu among adults — many of them the frail elderly — is high. So far this year 22,300 adults have died from flu, Brammer said, and more than 250,000 people have been hospitalized.

That’s still much lower than last year’s death toll, which topped 80,000. But the flu is still around, so more people will be hospitalized and die, Brammer said.

If more people were vaccinated, the number of deaths and hospitalizations could be drastically reduced, she noted.

Brammer stressed that if you get vaccinated but still get the flu, your illness will be milder than if you hadn’t gotten the shot. It’s also important that anyone who’s around babies and older adults get a flu shot.

“Vaccinating the family provides a ring of protection around the baby, or any other family member at high risk for flu,” she explained.

The CDC stressed that everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu shot.

Last year, vaccination was estimated to prevent 7.1 million illnesses, 3.7 million medical visits, 109,000 hospitalizations and 8,000 deaths, the CDC reported.

As of Feb. 16, flu is widespread in 48 states, and 30 states are experiencing high levels of the disease. In addition, hospitalizations are increasing, the CDC researchers found.

According to the CDC, flu activity is high in New York City and 30 states including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming.

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu and Relenza can make your illness less severe. But if you’re sick, the CDC recommends that you stay home so you don’t infect others.