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Widespread flu activity in half U.S.

Most cases attributed to H1N1 virus

January 7, 2014

Nearly half of the United States is reporting widespread influenza activity, most of it attributed to the H1N1 virus that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We’re seeing a big uptick in disease in the past couple of weeks. The virus is all around the united States right now,” said Dr. Joe Bresee, chief of Epidemiology and Prevention in the CDC’s Influenza Division.

The flu outbreak targeting otherwise-healthy adults has medical experts pleading for the public to get vaccinated. Luckily, this strain of H1N1 is included in this year’s flu vaccine. While younger people were more susceptible to H1N1 in 2009, Bressee said it is too early to tell whether the same will be true this year.

Twenty states experienced high influenza-like illness activity: Alabama, Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Texas has been one of the harder hit states, where at least 25 people have died this season from the flu, local health officials said.

Thousands of people die every year from flu, which peaks in the United States between October and March. The flu is spreading quickly this season, with 25 states already reporting cases, the CDC said. Nationwide in the week ending Dec. 28, the CDC said of 6,419 specimens tested, 1,711, or 27 percent, were positive for influenza.

Although it circulates in pigs, H1N1 is now a seasonal flu virus that affects humans. The symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of ordinary influenza: fever of 100 degrees or over is common, as well as body aches, coughs, runny noses, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, according to the Flu.gov website.

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