The H3N2 strain of flu virus has claimed 26 lives so far in the United States and has also doubled the hospitalization rate among people over 65 years. Flu typically infects 5 to 15 percent of the population and can be dangerous in those with weak immune systems, including the elderly and children.
The hospitalization rate for people over 65 years has gone up from 52 per 100,000 last week to 92 per 100,000 this week. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said, "The vaccine that is supposed to protect against the annual flu is missing its mark because two-thirds of the H3N2 strains that experts are seeing were not included in this year's flu shot."
CDC chief Tom Frieden said, "It is shaping up to be a bad year for flu. H3N2 is a nastier flu virus than the other flu viruses. At week seven of the typically 13-week flu season, the virus is now widespread in almost the entire country."
Freiden added, "In the context of an H3N2 predominant season, with a less effective vaccine, treatment with anti-flu drugs is even more important than usual." and urged doctors to give antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu, to patients if they get sick. Scientists have found that anti-flu drugs can reduce the flu symptoms, shorten the duration of symptoms and reduce the risk of complications.
The chief said, "Most people do not know the anti-viral drugs exist and fewer than one in five high-risk patients get treated. Anti-viral flu medications are greatly under-utilized but if you get the flu and you get medicines early they could keep you out of the hospital, they could keep you from having to go into the intensive care unit and they might even save your life."