CDC Sounds The Alarm On Rising Flu Cases In Young People

by Julie Scagell

Flu cases are slowly starting to rise in the U.S.

People are understandably fatigued when it comes to talking about vaccinations, but now is not the time to ease up. While transmission thus far is low, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory last week warning that cases of the seasonal flu are beginning to rise in the five to-24-year-old age group, asking public health practitioners and clinicians “to recommend and offer the current seasonal influenza vaccine to all eligible persons aged six months and older.”

The number of positive flu tests have begun to increase after last season of virtually no flu-related illness as people were staying home due to the pandemic. The agency said there were 415 cases during the week ending on Nov. 20, and the majority of cases are of the influenza A(H3N2) strain, making it of more concern because it can “evolve more rapidly to escape human immunity.”

It should be noted this is just a 1 percent positivity rate nationwide, but as the COVID numbers continue to rise in certain parts of the U.S., the flu numbers are concerning for health care providers, parents, and those who are immunocompromised.

The CDC said they are also “aware of influenza outbreaks in colleges and universities in several states. Influenza vaccination coverage is still low and there is still time this season to benefit from getting an annual influenza vaccine.”

This is concerning given nearly 90 percent of these flu numbers are in kids and young adults. The report comes after the University of Michigan reported a major flu outbreak with more than 520 cases, which sent CDC members to the Ann Arbor campus to investigate. “In the past, influenza A(H3N2) virus-predominant seasons were associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in persons aged 65 years and older than other age groups than other influenza viruses,” the CDC said.

The flu is nothing to mess around with and everyone who is able to be vaccinated should be. During the 2017-2018 flu season an estimated 80,000 Americans died.

The CDC is asking everyone aged six months and up to get the flu vaccine this year. This year’s vaccine protects against four strains: A(H1N1)pdm09, A(H3N2), B/Victoria lineage, and B/Yamagata lineage viruses. “Vaccination protects against four different viruses and is likely to reduce hospitalization and death associated with currently circulating influenza viruses and other influenza viruses that might circulate later in the season,” the agency said.

They also noted that fewer Americans have received their flu vaccine compared to last year, which is another reason for the advisory. They did note “there is still time this season,” also stating that people can get their COVID vaccine (or booster) at the same time as the flu vaccine.