Flu Reaches Epidemic Level

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 11 2013 1:34 PM

Flu Reaches Epidemic Level, but Could it Have Already Peaked?

159254439
Dr. Anne Furey Schultz examines Alice Corcoran, who was experiencing flu-like symptoms, at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago

Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

We already knew things were bad, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made it clear influenza has already reached epidemic proportions in the United States. Barely. With 7.3 percent of deaths last week caused by pneumonia and the flu, that puts it 0.1 percentage point higher than the 7.2 percent threshold for an epidemic, reports Reuters. Nine of 10 regions in the United States have “elevated” flu activity, showing how the disease has spread much more quickly than usual for a virus that usually doesn't reach high levels until late January or February. A total of 47 states have reported widespread flu activity—with California, Mississippi and Hawaii being the exceptions. (Check out the CDC map after the jump that illustrates how nearly all of the United States is affected.)

Still, as worrying as those numbers are, some regions of the country may have already experienced the worst of it, points out the Associated Press. The total number of hard-hit states has dropped to 24 from 29. But officials won’t know for sure whether the season has peaked for a few weeks, notes CNN. "The only thing predictable about the flu is, it's unpredictable," a CDC official said. Twenty children have died across the country from the flu, according to the CDC, which doesn’t keep a tally of adult deaths.

While health officials insist everyone should get the vaccine, it’s only 62 percent effective this year, meaning that almost four in 10 people who have the vaccine and are exposed to the virus will still become infected. Even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent the flu, it can still help make symptoms less severe.

Advertisement

Meanwhile, hospitals across the country are increasing capacity and staff in order to meet increasing demand from patients, reports Bloomberg. CDC officials say that nearly 130 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed this year, and at least 112 million have already been used.

“There is plenty of vaccine available, though people may not find it at the first pharmacy they go to,” a CDC official tells Bloomberg. “It’s perhaps even more important to be vaccinated, and quickly, because of the high rate of influenza we are seeing now.”

1357938134256

CDC

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

The GOP Senate Candidate in Iowa Doesn’t Want Voters to Know Just How Conservative She Really Is

Does Your Child Have “Sluggish Cognitive Tempo”? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

Why Indians in America Are Mad for India’s New Prime Minister

The Strange History of Wives Gazing at Their Husbands in Political Ads

Television

See Me

Transparent is the fall’s only great new show.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD

The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 12:04 PM John Hodgman on Why He Wore a Blue Dress to Impersonate Ayn Rand
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 30 2014 2:36 PM This Court Erred The Supreme Court has almost always sided with the wealthy, the privileged, and the powerful.
  Business
Building a Better Workplace
Sept. 30 2014 1:16 PM You Deserve a Pre-cation The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.
  Life
Education
Sept. 30 2014 1:48 PM Thrashed Florida State’s new president is underqualified and mistrusted. But here’s how he can turn it around.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 2:56 PM How Faithful Is David Fincher’s Gone Girl?
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 2:38 PM Scientists Use Electrical Impulses to Help Paralyzed Rats Walk Again
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 30 2014 7:30 AM What Lurks Beneath the Methane Lakes of Titan?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.