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Influenza, not the only illness spreading

Jan. 10, 2013 at 3:16 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Many U.S. adults and children are sick, either from influenza, a new stomach virus, what some describe as a miserable cold or whooping cough, officials say.

Boston declared a public health emergency after 700 people were diagnosed with influenza and four died. Hospitals in Boston have run out of space to treat patients -- at Brigham and Women's Hospital 100 patients were crowded into spaces licensed for 53 and Massachusetts General Hospital treated 532 confirmed influenza patients so far, and admitted 167, more than it did by this time during the 2009 H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

However, Mayor Vincent C. Gray of Washington said Thursday there is no evidence of a flu epidemic in the district and there has not been a sharp uptick in cases, as had occurred in New York, Illinois and Maine, The Washington Post reported.

Washington reported 310 flu cases so far this season, compared to 97 last season. Last year's flu season was considered very mild.

However, the Washington area is also reporting it has run out of flu vaccine. Store officials said they have adequate supplies of the flu vaccine, but some doctors, stores or pharmacies ran out and some vaccines had to be delayed for a day or two until supplies were replenished.

Although about 95 percent of the 135 million seasonal flu vaccines were distributed, about 60 percent of Americans do not get a shot, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta said.

Dr. Gregory A. Poland, a vaccine specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, said the predominant flu strain circulating this year was H3N2, which typically kills more people than the H1N1 strains which usually predominate, the Post said.

The 2003-04 Fujian flu season was overwhelmingly H3N2. However, though the strain of flu is well matched to the vaccine, the vaccine does not work 100 percent of the time. Doctors said if someone contracts the flu despite the vaccine, the case would be much less serious.

Dr. Aron J. Hall of the CDC's viral gastroenterology branch said a new strain of norovirus, or a vomiting flu, first appeared in Australia and is known as the Sydney 2012 variant.

Norovirus also came early this year. It typically appears later in the winter.

This month, the CDC said the United States was having its biggest outbreak of pertussis, or whooping cough in 60 years; with about 42,000 confirmed cases, the highest number since 1955, the Post said.

The whooping cough is not related to the flu but can appear to be flu and can be fatal in infants. Parents and other family members with contact with an infant are advised to get the vaccine against pertussis so they do not spread the highly contagious disease. Children are given pertussis vaccines, but they wear off as they become teens. Young adults and older adults are advised to get vaccinated against whooping cough.

Poland said many New Yorkers are reported to be catching laryngitis, but it is probably a rhinovirus -- the predominant cause of the common cold.

The virus causes a sore, really scratchy throat, and sometimes people lose their voices, Poland said.

Topics: H1N1
© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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