The 2018-2019 flu season is starting to pick up in the United States, with the infection considered widespread in two dozen states
Over the course of one week, states reporting high flu activity went from nine to 19, along with New York City, health officials said on Friday. The latest data was for the week ending on Dec. 29.
“The season is really starting to pick up,” Lynnette Brammer, the lead of CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team, told HealthDay.
“But as we see a jump in activity as we did this week, we would expect an increase in hospitalizations, and unfortunately, probably an increase in mortality,” Brammer said.
The CDC says that there is high flu activity in Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Virginia at this point, along with New York City.
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Brammer said that anyone who has not gotten the flu vaccine should go now. This year’s vaccine is working particularly well against this strain of the flu, influenza A strain H1N1, and is up to 65 percent effective.
Plus, Brammer said, “There’s still a lot more flu season to come. I expect activity to continue for several more weeks.”
An estimated 80,000 people died during the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC said in September, making it an extremely severe year. During mild seasons, around 12,000 people die of the flu. Brammer said they can’t yet tell how severe this season will be.
If you think you may have the flu, the best thing to do is get checked by a doctor and stay home to rest and avoid infecting others. The CDC also says it’s also important to wash your hands frequently, stay hydrated, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and wipe down surfaces that may have come into contact with contagion, as flu germs can live on them for up to 24 hours.
Dr. Travis Stork, an ER physician, host of The Doctors and a member of PEOPLE’s Health Squad, suggests getting the vaccine and focusing on preventative measures, like skipping handshakes and hugs. “During cold and flu season, it’s not rude!” he said.