Europe Sees Increase in Flu-Related Illnesses and Deaths
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reports a surge in flu cases in the United Kingdom (UK). Influenza A(H1N1) 2009 appears to be the dominant strain circulating.
In the UK, the number of people who have died with all types of flu this winter hit 27 this week after another 10 deaths.
There has been a 250% increase in flu-related hospitalizations in the UK which has lead to concern of a repeat flu epidemic this year. Many of the UK confirmed flu cases are between 16 and 64 (366 of 460).
The rates being seen elsewhere in Europe are not as high as in the UK. Russia and the Ukraine are thought to be the worst hit outside the UK.
The United States has not been immune. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 724 confirmed cases of flu-related hospitalizations and 16 flu-associated deaths were reported between October 3 and December 18, 2010. Two of the deaths were in children.
CDC has antigenically characterized 89 influenza viruses [13 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses, 26 influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and 50 influenza B viruses] collected by U.S. laboratories since October 1, 2010.
This year’s flu vaccination includes protection against the three strains of flu identified by the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices expected to circulate in the 2010-2011 season. These three strains are an A/H3N2 strain, a B strain and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain.
The CDC now recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get vaccinated if they haven't already done so, to protect themselves and their loved ones from flu. It is not too late to get yours for this flu season.
Tips to help prevent the spread of the flu
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Use waterless alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60% alcohol) when soap is not available and hands are not visibly dirty.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Try to cough or sneeze into your elbow / upper sleeve rather than your hand. If you use a tissue, dispose of it in a wastebasket and then wash your hands.