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Widespread influenza outbreak plagues 47 states

In the past month, the percentage of patients visiting doctors with flu-like symptoms jumped from 2.8 percent to 4.3 percent, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC’s latest FluView report shows that the number of deaths attributed to influenza is now above the epidemic threshold for the first time of the season. 47 states are battling widespread flu outbreaks with most of these states experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI).

“Reports of influenza-like-illness (ILI) are nearing what have been peak levels during moderately severe seasons,” explained Dr. Joe Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in CDC’s Influenza Division. So far, about 8.1 per 100,000 people have been hospitalized with the flu this season. “This is high for this time of year,” said Bresee.

This season, about 76% of reported cases have been influenza A (H3N2) viruses. According to the CDC, seasons with a predominance of this type of flu have had higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths.

“Anyone who has not already been vaccinated should do so now,” urged Bresee. Currently, 91% of the flu cases that the CDC has analyzed have been like the types included in the 2012-2013 flu vaccine. This match is one indication of how effective the flu vaccine is likely to be, but Bresee warns that other factors exist and it is possible to become ill despite having been vaccinated.

Provide workers with hand sanitizers and help reduce the flu risk in workplaces by following CDC recommendations, including educating workers to cover both the nose and mouth with a tissue when sneezing and disposing of the tissue immediately, frequently washing hands with soap and water, and avoiding touching the eyes, nose, and mouth.

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