The flu struck four times the number of people in Arizona this season as it did the previous season, and the mortality rate has more than doubled.
That is an astounding 27,444 people this season with the flu compared to last seasons 5,534 in Arizona, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS). A total of 656 people died.
This particular strain of the flu has hit hardest with at-risk demographics such as the elderly, the young and pregnant women.
A larger number of individuals age 50 or older are being affected by the flu and about 31 percent of those affected are ages 65 and older. Two years ago, only 15 percent of this demographic was diagnosed with some form of the flu (ADHS). In Maricopa County, two influenza pediatric deaths have been reported this flu season.
“Influenza is a very serious illness, so if you’re at high risk or have symptoms such as difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness, confusion, persistent vomiting, cannot drink fluids, or have flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever or worse cough, seek emergency medical care immediately,” said state Department of Health Services Director Dr. Cara Christ.
The flu is spread mostly through coughing and sneezing according to ADHS. The most common flu symptoms to look for are: coughing, sore throat, headaches, the chills and fatigue.
The biggest mistake you can make when it comes to the flu is bad hygiene, according to Dr. Dany Quan of Emergency Medicine at Maricopa Medical Center in Phoenix.
“Not covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze, not washing your hands, making close contact with others, and not staying home when sick so you are exposing others,” Quan said. A big mistake people make is, “Not getting the flu vaccine since “it doesn’t do any good because I still got sick.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends only injectable flu shots this season.
“It is never too late to get vaccinated”said Jill Verbridge, nurse practitioner at the University of Arizona.
Nationally, the flu viruses have predominated this year in the United States according to the CDC. The number of deaths caused by the flu was above the epidemic threshold in the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) Mortality Surveillance System the CDC reported.
This season the flu is not only more severe but occurring earlier as well.
Verbridge said, “We saw a huge influx of patients with the flu very early this year” on the University of Arizona campus, “to the point where we questioned if it was last years bug creeping in again, just worse.”
Megan Gibbs is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. Reach her at email@example.com
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