GAINESVILLE (CBSMiami) – Flu season is in full swing across the country and in central Florida at least 12 people have died from influenza since last October, including five people under 40 years old.
According to the University of Florida’s Shands Hospital, in addition to the deaths, the system has seen more than 150 hospital admissions during the same time frame. UF said the trend in central Florida is being seen in cities across the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
As of the end of 2013, 25 states reported widespread geographic influenza activity, according to the CDC. An additional 20 states reported regional influenza activity. The CDC said hospitalizations from this year’s flu is running roughly 5.8 per 100,000 people.
The particular strains of the flu that is making life miserable for tens of thousands of Americans this year are the H1N1 and H3N2 versions. The H1N1 version of the disease is the same one that caused the swine flu scare a few years ago.
“This is a nasty strain, and it’s hitting young people,” said Dr. J. Glenn Morris, interim hospital epidemiologist and director of the University of Florida Emerging Pathogens Institute. “We often tend to think of the flu as something that kills the old and infirmed. But we’re seeing a striking increase in the number of younger patients contracting the flu and we are also seeing increased severity. Somehow this strain has mutated and it doesn’t look like it’s changed for the better.
The CDC recommends that everyone six months of age or older should get vaccinated against the flu. This year’s vaccine has performed well in those who took it. The CDC also said to take precautions like washing your hands to help protect against the flu.
Finally, if you are exposed to the flu, talk to the doctor about preventive antiviral medications.
According to Google Flu Trends, this year’s flu season hasn’t reached the level it was last year, but January was the peak month of cases last year.