PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The nation is in the coast-to-coast grips of a severe flu season, now on track to be as bad as the outbreak that caused an estimated 56,000 deaths.
On Friday, federal health officials said the flu is hitting baby boomers hard as it continues to be widespread throughout the Delaware Valley.
It’s especially bad in Montgomery County where there are now over 130 hospitalizations and four deaths, including an infant who was too young to be vaccinated in January.
This flu season is shaping up to be a high severity season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Similar to the 2014-2015 season, when the H3N2 virus also dominated, it’s estimated about 34 million Americans had flu that year.
“Thousands of people were hospitalized and the numbers of deaths were somewhere around 56,000,” said Dr. Daniel Jernigan, the CDC’s influenza division director.
People over 65 continue to be the group most affected, which is typical when the H3N2 dominates. Children are usually the next group, but this season the CDC says they’re seeing higher levels of hospitalizations in baby boomers 50 to 64 years old.
“Vaccine coverage isn’t as high in that group but also they may be little more susceptible to another influenza virus circulating which is H1N1,” explained Dr. Jernigan.
The number of flu cases continues to increase and a predictor of the death rate has just jumped.
“We would hope we are reaching that peak but we are monitoring closely,” Dr. Jernigan said.
With many more weeks of flu season still to come, doctors are urging it’s not too late to get the vaccine, to take precautions to prevent getting the flu like washing your hands and to stay home if you are sick so you don’t spread the virus to others.