The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released data indicating that the estimated number of people who die from influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) per year in the United States is substantially higher than previous estimates.
CDC scientists estimate that an average of 36,000 people (up from 20,000 in previous estimates) die from influenza related complicated each year in the United States. In addition, about 11,000 people die per year from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a virus that causes upper and lower respiratory tract infections primarily in young children and older adults.
CDC researchers believe that the increase can be explained in part by the aging of the U.S population. Over the past several decades, the number of persons aged 85 or older has doubled. Also, the most virulent of influenza viruses in recent years, influenza A (H3N2), has been the most common strain circulating during the last decade.
Influenza season usually peaks in the United States sometime between December and March. So far this year only a few states have reported widespread activity.
The CDC recommends influenza vaccination for those at high risk for complications from the flu, including individuals aged 65 and older and others with chronic medical conditions such as heart and lung disease and diabetes, as well as health care workers. All other groups, including household members of high-risk persons, healthy people ages 50-64, and others who wish to decrease their risk of getting the flu should begin receiving vaccinations in November.
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- Influenza (the flu) is a contagious disease that is caused by the influenza virus.
- The flu attacks the respiratory tract in humans (nose, throat, and lungs).
- The flu is different from a cold, and the flu usually comes on suddenly and may include these symptoms:
- Dry Cough
- Nasal congestion
- Body aches
- Most people who get the flu will recover in one to two weeks, but some people will develop life-threatening complications (such as pneumonia) as a result of the flu.
- People 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from flu.
- Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu.
- The flu can make chronic health problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have the flu, and people with chronic congestive heart failure may have worsening of this condition that is triggered by the flu.
How the Disease is Spread
- The flu is spread, or transmitted, when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes, or speaks and sends flu virus into the air, and other people inhale the virus.
- The virus enters the nose, throat, or lungs of a person and begins to multiply, causing symptoms of the flu.
- Flu may, less often, be spread when a person touches a surface that has flu viruses on it – a door handle, for instance – and then touches his or her nose or mouth.
- A person can spread the flu starting one day before they feel sick.
- Adults can continue to pass the flu virus to others for another three to seven days after symptoms start. Children can pass the virus for longer than seven days.
- Symptoms start one to four days after the virus enters the body.
- Some persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons can still spread the virus to others.
What Should You Do?
- Drink plenty of liquids
- Avoid using alcohol and tobacco
- Take medication to relieve the symptoms of the flu
- Influenza is caused by a virus, so antibiotics (like penicillin) don’t work to cure it. The best way to prevent the flu is to get an influenza vaccine (flu shot) each fall, before flu season.
- Never give aspirin to children or teenagers who have flu-like symptoms – and particularly fever – without first speaking to your doctor.
- Giving aspirin to children and teenagers who have influenza can cause a rare but serious illness called Reye syndrome. Children or teenagers with the flu should get plenty of rest, drink lots of liquids, and take medicines that contain no aspirin to relieve symptoms.
Source: http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluinfo.htm (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Flu Facts Web site) contributed to this report.