Nationwide Flu Activity Worsening

Forty-three states reporting high or widespread activity six weeks into the flu season.
7:16 | 01/05/15

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Transcript for Nationwide Flu Activity Worsening
The flu outbreak in the US near epidemic levels and we are just how. Halfway up the room with the flu season. The Centers for Disease Control prevention releasing some new numbers to date 29 states are now fighting severe flu operates. The love when I'm down Cutler. In New York the largest strain that has caused this widespread outbreak is the H three N two strain that is the usual seasonal flu strain. But this one this season is slightly different in the virus component used in this year's flu vaccine does that necessarily mean that you shouldn't get the vaccine. Here are some answers to explain all of this is our chief health and medical editor doctor Richard best director best thanks for being with us happy new year in year are still finest in the CDC can mount some of these new numbers on here tonight I know that we that we peaked at an epidemic level are we gonna be reaching that again as we continue on I think. We will you know as you are saying we're just in the middle of the flu season and what what what's always said about the flu is that the only thing you can predict is that it will be unpredictable. That each year it's it's it's on its own course that the past few years flu season has started early it started. In December and so you're seeing a lot of flu activity at the time people are traveling around the country. And when that happens is there's opportunities for spread people come back from their vacation not just with presence but with flu and the and they fear. So than ever of these cases and what percentage what portion of that it would be affected by the vaccine that was administered this year well live in the percentage right now in today's numbers only if there of those strains that are that are out in the community are covered by the issues vaccine that's last year we had almost a perfect match this year the exact house with just a mutation of the virus what would happen if the the problem is they have to decide what strains of flu to put in the vaccine back in February. And they do that by looking to see well it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere what strains of flu circulating there and that's what they paid for the vaccine but between February and now. The H three N two strain mutated and mutate to the point where two thirds of the strains that are out there causing the disease. Are not covered by the vaccine so why Aniston's at a very dumb question but wise that we can't put all of those kinds of strains into one backs that's that's then did the big question there's a lot of work going on to develop something called the universal flu vaccine. And what they're looking for is part of that virus that doesn't change year to year which also will give you immunity but so far they haven't found it. And all have been able to do so far is put four strains of flu into the vaccine used to be only three. And then about two or three years ago they felt they they were able technologically. To add a fourth strain. Unfortunately. None of those four strains of the one that's out. So read other CBC's 129 states have a high level of outbreaks right now what the president between high and moderate levels well in each area they're looking at the percentage of visits outpatient communities that are caused by the flu. And each state looks at its base line this time a year what do you normally see before the flu is there then once that level is exceeded then they're hitting hitting what would be called. The high level of flu had. You know it it's likely following a weather map and it tends to start the southeast and moves to the midwest. And then out from the air so there's the map today to and a lot more activity in the southwest in the plains states. California has not been hit Washington argued those states have been hit. But most states are are seeing it and it's just a matter of time here you're the average flu season lasts about thirteen weeks. Where in about week six right now is lesson not even halfway through really. The flu is deadly it's incredibly serious and a lot of people are taking in more more serious are they getting vaccine or at least trying to let protect themselves from those that might be infected. You know at its worst point in one season 36000 Americans died because of influenza there. There's a surprising then that there might not be as much attention put on the flew with the flu vaccine has saved Ebola. If it is surprising when you when you look at the things that people are are afraid. It often has no relation to what things they are truly at risk for. And it's it's hard people experience the flu every year and so you tires you start to get numb to that. And the reality is that most people who get the flu. They recover and and do just fine if it attacks a lot of people to kill the numbers that you're you're just talking about. When he hears something like the ball the the the death rate is is much much higher it just the risk to people is so incredibly says the recommendations still to get inoculated at this point in the season it is you know it'll be probably two or three weeks we'll have the first sense of how effective the vaccine is all we're talking about now is. Is it a good match. But there are times where it's not a great match but you get something called cross protection. New vaccine against this rate of H three N two gives some protection against another strain reached three and two. You'll know that in a couple weeks but apart from the H three N two. They're two other strains causing disease H1N1 and a tight be influence of virus. Those are out there and they are matched with a vaccine so. Here you can get I always feel that some architecture and is is better than none. But everyone has to make their decision based on what they view their risk is and how they feel about the vaccine so far into the season at least 21 children died. From influenza then. Knowing that children and the elderly are to the most susceptible population groups that what can communities do them what can school student assistance is to stop those case yeah I'd add to those two groups pregnant women because they're very high risk. And people with underlying medical problems like asthma heart disease and Dziena all of those those groups are at increased risk and so vaccination is key. The other recommendation from the CDC is if you've fallen to a high risk group has so that you develop flu symptoms. Call your doctor because their anti flu medications they can be given. But they only work if they're given in the first 48 hours after that not much benefit to benefit when they're given properly is in great. But even some benefit to someone who's at a high risk of serious disease. May be enough in less so wanted to ask you about this I know that as a health care professional enforcing you have to put yourself on the line sometimes in dealing with these types of cases. Is that the recommendation to called the doctor's office first if you start experiencing symptoms rather than going to the office. I you know I don't like to see my office fill up with people with the flu because what they're gonna do is give it to other people who were in that waiting river and other reasons so I think calling is a good thing. If you're having any difficulty breathing or speaking or respiratory problems that's an emergency call 911 agreed emergency room. But if it's body aches headache fever stopped being as cough. I give a call first because they can often make the diagnosis over the phone you don't have to go out and they can recommend. The best way to manage your symptoms just of the good advice night it happened in the season. Doctor Richard Esther thank you appreciate that as always. And of course you can stamp today with the store in real time by downloading the ABC news outlets starting this story for exclusive updates on the go. For now. I'm Dan Cutler in New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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