The H1N1 flu started with just two states that were seeing widespread symptoms. Texas is one, and apparently the source of where this flu seems to have begun its wrath.
Last week - the flu epidemic had spread to 10 states of severe illness and hospitalization.
As of today January 3rd, there are 25 states that have reported epidemic proportions of illness and the flu season has barely begun. Those states that have claimed widespread (widespread means over 50% of geographic regions) symptoms include:
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington state and Wyoming, according to the CDC's (Centers for Disease Control) weekly flu advisory report, covering the week ending December 28.
Canada is seeing widespread flu as well.
Thousands of people die every year from flu, which peaks in the United States between October and March, we're not even halfway through this and we're already seeing deaths and extreme illness, especially with the elderly and the young.
"We are 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.
Just in 2009 - 2012, the H1N1 virus, or swine flu, spread from Central Mexico to 74 other countries, killing approximately 284,000 people, according to the CDC.
And what people don't realize is that the vaccine, however safe it makes people feel, is not that effective.
From Live Science: "Influenza is a mutating virus, and this feature is related to [its] genome structure; it has nothing to do with vaccines," explained Mohammed Alsharifi of the Australian National University" who recently posted on PLoS ONE, an online journal. "[The concept of] antibiotic resistant bacteria cannot be applied to viruses."
While there is no vaccine for the current outbreak of H1N1 (swine flu), getting a yearly flu shot remains to be a good idea for everyone, not just the elderly. Yearly shots strengthen the immune system, providing at least a slight edge against new strains, because your body might recognize parts of that new strain.
The best protection against antigenic shift is to keep live birds away from live pigs, since birds are the most common carrier of flu viruses ...and from birds and pigs raised in cramped and stressful conditions that promote the spread of viruses.
A vaccine or "flu shot" might make take the edge off of the flu, but it is not going to prevent you from getting this flu. Best to stay home to avoid getting sick, drink lots of vitamin C and fluids to build your immune system - eat right - and keep your hands clean.
Image via Centers for Disease Control