1st flu-related child death reported in New Jersey

As flu outbreak numbers rise, the HSE says it's not too late to get your vaccine

Across the country, the flu is considered to be widespread in two dozen states, including North Carolina.

The flu is making its rounds in nearly every state around the country and more people are coming down with the common flu symptoms.

"What I can tell you is that the people who have been hospitalized and the deaths that were associated with the flu this year are people who have not been immunized, a majority of them have not been immunized", said Dr. Jennifer Russell, chief medical officer of health for New Brunswick. "It's still low in Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and 22 of our 50 states, but that will change as the season progresses", Stephen Morse, PhD, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center in NY, told Healthline.

Ottawa, in contrast, was seeing a lower rate of influenza overall and among children than the national rates as of the end of the year (the most recent numbers).

"We're really just now getting into our flu season", said Dr. Michelle Murti of Public Health Ontario, noting that the proportion of tests on people with respiratory bugs that came back positive for influenza had doubled to 16 per cent in the week ending December 29, compared to eight per cent the week before.

The New Jersey Department of Health is confirming the state's first pediatric flu death of the season.

Ottawa Public Health officials warn that flu has not yet peaked and the level of influenza being seen in other parts of Canada could be coming to Ottawa.

Moore said physicians at CHEO are seeing cases of RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) and other viruses as well as some flu.

"The dominant virus is different from a year ago, which is excellent".

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However, overall the province has given 278,000 doses of the vaccine, up eight per cent from previous year. H3N2, the strain largely responsible for last year's outbreak, has so far been less common than the H1N1 strain.

"There is still discussion about how this happened, but many scientists think that the infection somehow overstimulated the immune system, causing an effect similar to septic shock or a hemorrhagic fever".

Children less than two years old and adults older than 65.

"Influenza can take a perfectly healthy person and put them in the emergency room within 24 hours". The CDC recommends the vaccine for anyone over the age of 6 months old, he added.

Across Ontario, influenza has been hitting young children, but the picture is a little different in the Quinte area.

Although the season has already begun, there is still time to get the flu shot. It is not too late to get vaccinated. "There's plenty of vaccines out there, most doctor's offices have some and if not you can go to any pharmacy to receive one".

Although not a ideal vaccine, Morse says the average person may not realize just how important a role the influenza vaccine plays in public health. "This is called 'herd immunity, '" he explained.

Of course, it's still possible to get the flu even if you've gotten the flu shot, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't get vaccinated. "This year's vaccine is a good match for circulating strains and it is not too late to get the vaccine". "We're so used to the flu that we really underestimate it", Morse said.

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