The number of confirmed flu cases in Arizona has increased 68 percent compared to the previous flu season, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services influenza summary report.
“Right now, we are seeing very high levels of flu in the state,” said Shane Brady, 29, an epidemiologist at the Arizona Department of Health Services. “We’re seeing almost 18,000 cases for this season, which is much more than previous seasons.”
The predominant strain is H1N1 but AH3B is also circulating at a high level, Brady said. H1N1 was commonly known as swine flu when it caused global pandemic during the 2009-2010 flu season. Back then it was a novel strain. Now it is among the common flu viruses.
Symptoms of the H1N1 virus include fever, cough and sore throat. Young adults are especially at risk. Other flu viruses tend to cause more serious complications in children and adults 65 and older.
“We’re getting lab reports of people in the 19- to 49-year age group,” Brady said. “Thirty-two percent of those people are reported as having the flu.”
Vaccination rates are lowest in that age group, Brady said.
Flu hospitalizations and adult flu-related deaths are not reportable in Arizona but the Centers for Disease Control tracks serious complications across the country.
“This year the CDC had released that they received a lot of reports of severe outcomes, hospitalizations and death in young and middle-aged adults from H1N1,” said Brady.
Getting vaccinated every year is important because viruses change, he said. But many young adults do not get a flu shot.
“The flu usually doesn’t affect me but this year I’ve gotten sick a lot more,” said Stephanie Carrasco, 19, a student at ASU. “I haven’t gotten vaccinated this year.”
Bianca Oceguera, an ASU medical studies student, got her flu shot at a grocery store pharmacy.
And she takes other precautions. “I wash my hands and take care of myself,” said Oceguera. “There are a lot of people getting sick this year, not just my family but also my friends.”
“Even though flu is on the decline, it’s still at very high levels and it’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Brady said.
It takes two weeks for a person’s body to become immune to a virus after vaccination; however, it is the best available protection against the flu, according to Brady.
“Besides vaccination, it’s always important that you can take simple everyday measures, such as covering your cough, washing your hands, staying home when you’re sick,” Brady said.