Last Friday, the CDC reported that 35 states are seeing widespread cases of influenza. Young and middle aged adults are getting hit harder than usual this season due to the prevalence of the H1N1 (swine flu) strain, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Most years, it’s the very young and very old who are most affected.
Unlike 2009, when H1N1 re-emerged after lying dormant for decades, this year’s flu shot does include protection against H1N1. However, because young people – who tend to get vaccinated at a lower rate than the overall population – haven’t had much previous exposure to H1N1, they are especially vulnerable this year. This season, 61.5% of hospitalized flu patients are between 18 and 64 years old – a steep increase from last season, when they represented 34% of hospitalized patients, according to ABC news.
The 35 states seeing widespread flu activity is a sharp increase from the 25 states one week earlier. This chart from the CDC shows where activity is the highest.
Of course, just because your state isn’t bright red doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get a flu shot if you haven’t already. Getting vaccinated is the number one most effective way to prevent infection. Even if you were vaccinated last season, it’s important to get another one this season, because immunity declines over time, and different strains of the flu become more prevalent (as we are seeing with H1N1 right now). While flu season commonly peaks in January or February, it can continue as late as May – meaning there’s still plenty of reason to get vaccinated as soon as you can.
Getting a flu shot is now more convenient than ever before. Pharmacies, drug stores, and super-markets often have walk-in clinics with convenient hours and little hassle. Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder to find a location near you.