USA flu activity ramps up, with 9 new kids' deaths


"Anyone who tries to predict the flu season based on early information doesn't understand influenza very well", said Michael Osterholm, director of the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

"We typically see the highest incidence of flu in early January and February, but we've seen a dramatic climb since about December 12, based on visits to the ED (hospital emergency department) and the labs that report to us", said Joni Hensley, the communicable disease supervisor for the Whatcom County Health Department.

The number of lab-confirmed influenza cases reported locally last week jumped by almost 70%, a sign that flu activity in the region is increasing, the County Health and Human Services Agency announced today.

Health officials encourage residents to get the flu vaccine, especially with the holidays right around the corner.

The flu vaccine is available at local doctors' offices, retail pharmacies and the county's public health centers.

All regions of the country are seeing elevated levels of flu-like illness, according to the CDC.

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The flu shot is never 100% effective, but "getting a flu vaccine will be the best thing people can do to protect themselves from getting the flu". Will you need to be treated with antiviral medication? "These steps include: frequent hand washing, covering your coughs/sneezes with a tissue or into your elbow and staying home if you have flu-like symptoms".

Washington state now has the highest level of influenza-like illness of any western state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Public health officials said the elementary school-age child was previously healthy.

"Our results imply that employment in service industries - particularly retail and health care - is a particularly strong mechanism for flu spread", Nesson said.

"It's a different seasons than the past", Landen said.