Kane County, CDC Warn of Increases in Flu Activity

Kane County, CDC Warn of Increases in Flu Activity

A screenshot from the Wednesday, Nov. 17, Public Health Committee meeting shows pneumonia and flu levels for 2015 through 2019.

Kane County and Centers for Disease Control health experts are reporting increases in flu activity that could mark the beginning of the 2021-2022 flu season.

CDC’s most recent FluView reports show there has been an increase of influenza A(H3N2) viruses detected in recent weeks.

Uche Onwuta

Speaking at last week’s Kane County Public Health Committee meeting, Uche Onwuta, Kane County Health Department director of health promotion, encouraged Kane County residents to get a flu shot and said the Health Department would be monitoring influenza closely this year.

According to the CDC, the majority of recent cases have been found in young adults and children, who are commonly the drivers of community spread of flu. CDC also has received anecdotal reports of flu outbreaks among young adults, possibly attending colleges and universities in several states.

In addition, the University of Michigan has reported a large and sudden increase in cases of flu among students on the Ann Arbor campus. CDC is working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Washtenaw County Health Department, and University of Michigan to investigate the outbreak.

The occurrence or timing of these recent flu outbreaks is not particularly unusual.

Flu activity often starts to increase in October, most commonly peaks in February and can last into May. The recent outbreaks and associated increasing detection of H3N2 viruses are notable because they represent the first significant flu activity of the 2021-2022 season (and the first since March 2020).

This increase in flu activity as the holiday season is about to begin underscores the importance of flu vaccination. On college campuses, flu viruses are known to spread rapidly in close quarters like common living spaces, classrooms, shared restrooms, and through social activities, and yet young adults consistently have the lowest flu vaccination coverage every flu season in the United States.

Also, early in-season CDC estimates suggest that flu vaccine uptake among other groups so far is lower this season than last, including among children and pregnant people.

U-M reports that its University Health Service has diagnosed more than 500 cases of flu since Oct. 6, 2021, prompting MDHHS to request epidemiologic assistance from CDC.

There was historically low flu activity during 2020-2021, likely due to strict COVID-19 prevention measures.

Other respiratory viruses were similarly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic but have since resumed normal circulation patterns. Experts have been watching closely to see whether flu virus circulation would resume.

During the most recent three weeks (week ending October 23, 2021 through the week ending Nov. 6, 2021), influenza A(H3N2) viruses have been reported by public health laboratories in seven of the 10 HHS regions (Regions 1, 3, 4, 5, 7, 8, and 9), which covers much of the country geographically, indicating flu circulation is beginning to resume.

Influenza A (H3N2) predominant seasons often are also associated with more severe flu seasons, especially for older adults and young children.

Flu vaccination is the best way to prevent the spread of flu and widespread flu illnesses. CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get an annual flu vaccine. Anyone who has not received a flu vaccine this season should get vaccinated now.

A flu vaccine protects against four flu viruses, including an H3N2 virus that was updated for this season’s flu vaccines. COVID-19 vaccination will not protect against flu. Both COVID-19 and flu vaccines are needed this season as recommended.

It’s important to note that flu antiviral drugs can be used to treat flu illness. CDC recommends prompt treatment for people who have flu or suspected flu and especially for those who are at higher risk of serious flu complications.

Antiviral drugs are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine. While flu vaccine can vary in how well it works, a flu vaccine is the best way to help prevent seasonal flu and its potentially serious complications. Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that can be used to treat flu if you get sick.

CDC is continuing to monitor the situation and will provide updates as needed.

SOURCE: CDC, Kane County Health Department

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