Flu widespread in 36 states, CDC reports

Rachel Ohm
The CDC reports that this strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year.

Outbreaks of influenza are getting an early start in part because of cold weather gripping much of the United States and low effectiveness associated with this year’s flu vaccine.

It’s still too early to say whether this winter will be a bad season for the flu, but epidemiologists in 36 states already have reported widespread influenza activity to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which released data Friday.

Twenty-one of those states show a high number of cases.

“It’s just one of those years where the CDC is seeing that this strain of flu is only somewhat covered by the vaccine that was given this year,” said Jennifer Radtke, manager for infection prevention at the University of Tennessee Medical Center in Knoxville.

The incidences of influenza have been reported at high levels in northeast Wisconsin.

“They’re seeing that it’s anywhere from 10 percent to 33 percent effective, so any time there’s a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating strain of the flu, you’re going to see more cases.”

The report also noted that cases of influenza across Wisconsin have been picking up steam. The Badger state is one of 35 where the flu has been deemed as "widespread".

According to the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, 776 hospitalizations from the virus this flu season have been reported with one-third of the illnesses occurring over the holiday season. Over 60 percent of the hospitalizations involved residents over the age of 65. Nursing homes have also been hard hit with illness.