Flu hits early across the nation

  • Updated: January 10, 2013 - 10:03 PM

 

From the Rocky Mountains to New England, hospitals are swamped with people with flu symptoms. Flu season in the United States has hit early and, in many places, hard. While flu normally doesn't blanket the country until late January or February, it is already widespread in more than 40 states, with about 30 of them reporting some major hot spots. Here's a look at the flu outbreaks:

The toll: At least 41 states have reported widespread flu outbreaks, more than 2,250 people have been hospitalized and 20 children have died, said the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Updated national statistics are to be released Friday.

Vaccine supplies: Vaccine manufacturers produced 135 million doses of the immunization this year, and have distributed 127 million doses or about 95 percent of them, said Michael Jhung, a CDC medical officer. "There is plenty of vaccine available, though people may not find it at the first pharmacy they go to," he said. "It's perhaps even more important to be vaccinated, and quickly, because of the high rate of influenza we are seeing now."

Wisconsin: Claire Smith, a spokeswoman for the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, said nearly 1,300 people have been hospitalized as a result of the flu statewide since October.

Colorado: The state has seen 506 flu-related hospitalizations so far this season, with hospital cases picking up in November, a month earlier than usual, said Dr. Lisa Miller, manager of the communicable disease epidemiology program for state health. Meanwhile, vaccine shortages were hitting the Denver metro area.

Massachusetts: Boston declared a public health emergency, with the city's hospitals counting about 1,500 emergency room visits since December by people with flu-like symptoms. Eighteen residents have died so far. The city is planning to offer free flu shots and hospitals in the state are changing their visiting policies to limit potential exposure to flu-causing viruses.

Pennsylvania: A hospital in Allentown, Pa., set up a tent outside this week for a steady stream of patients with flu symptoms.

New York: New York hospitals are also seeing the effects of a severe flu season. At North Shore University Hospital on New York's Long Island, emergency room visits have been up as much as 30 percent and there has been a spike in hospitalizations, said Andrew Sama, chairman of emergency medicine at North Shore University Hospital. The hospital has brought in extra beds and staff, and has doctors and nurses working overtime as patients have to wait longer than usual in the emergency room. The hospital is seeing a lot of patients with the flu who received this year's flu shot, he said.

New Jersey: Every county is experiencing either a "high" or "moderate" level of activity, said the state department of health.

Virginia/ Maryland/ District of Columbia: Virginia and Maryland are reporting unusually high and widespread levels of flu-related illness. As of Thursday, D.C. hospitals had already reported 310 cases, more than triple the number reported in last year's season.

Maine: The health department said Maine was seeing a large spike in cases this week.

Wyoming: The state's largest hospital, which has a 17-bed emergency room saw its busiest day ever last week, with 166 visitors.

Worldwide: Europe is also suffering an early flu season, but a milder strain predominates there. Flu reports are up, too, in China, Japan, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, Algeria and the Republic of Congo. Britain and Canada are seeing a surge in cases of norovirus.

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