Slow Start to Flu Season, But Not Too Late for Trouble, CDC Reports

Carolyn Drake

The current flu season has been relatively quiet so far-especially when compared to the recent H1N1 riddled seasons-but the CDC still maintains that precautions against influenza must be taken.

The current flu season has been relatively quiet so far—especially when compared to the recent H1N1-riddled seasons—but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains that precautions against influenza must be taken.

"If you look at the nation as a whole, we are seeing low activity across the country,” but by February, “we expect that activity will increase,” said Tom Skinner, a spokesman for the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, according to an article in USA Today.

There was a slight increase in flu activity at the end of January, but it was still relatively low, according to a CDC report. Colorado and New Hampshire showed slightly increased rates of influenza, while the incidence rate in the other 48 states was "minimal."

Further, just 1.4% of outpatient visits to hospitals or doctors' offices during the first week of the year were for influenza, compared to a seasonal average of 2.4% over the last three years. The CDC also noted that so far this season, just one in every 20,000 people with the flu had such a severe case that they required hospitalization.

According to the report, no child deaths have been reported in conjunction with influenza this year, whereas during the 2010-2011 season, four influenza-related pediatric deaths had been reported by January 1.

Despite this positive news, the CDC continues to stress the importance of precautionary behavior, such as frequent washing and sanitizing of hands and covering the mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing.

Some experts believe that the mildness of this flu season may be due to increased vaccination rates inspired by fear of H1N1 after the scares of recent years.

"It's not too late to get the vaccine if you haven't already done so,” said Angela Golden, president-elect of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners.

“The bottom line is that vaccination continues to be the single most important thing people can do to protect themselves from flu," Skinner said.

More information on vaccination against influenza can be downloaded from the CDC's website.