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Flu activity worsens as peak season approaches

The Herald-Dispatch - 12/26/2017

The nation's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upgraded West Virginia's flu activity from "sporadic" to "local activity" this week, while Ohio has reached the highest "widespread" designation.

In Kentucky, "regional" activity, the second most severe level, has been reported for the past five weeks.

West Virginia's baseline activity remains just above the baseline recorded in October, according to the state Department of Health and Human Services, though flu season is expected to peak anywhere between early January and mid-February, as it has since the 2014 season.

In Ohio, flu activity appears to be climbing toward its peak a few weeks sooner than the five-year average, according to the state Department of Health. An estimated 150 people have been hospitalized due to the flu in the Buckeye State already this season, which normally peaks in early January.

In Kentucky, at least 171 lab-confirmed cases of the flu have been reported this season, according to the state Department of Public Health. At least one flu-related death has been reported.

The CDC grades a state's flu activity on five levels: no activity, sporadic, local activity, regional and widespread.

The most effective prevention against the flu remains a simple vaccination, Dr. Rahul Gupta, commissioner for the West Virginia Bureau for Public Health and state health officer, previously told The Herald-Dispatch. The vaccine even mitigates the symptoms should an individual contract the virus while under inoculation. Tens of thousands of West Virginians are hospitalized with the flu each year, he said, and a handful die from the disease.

Flu season does not directly spread due to cold weather, Gupta said, but through human contact - chiefly through the air and hand-to-mouth contact. There is, however, proof of the old adage the flu spreads as humans spend more time inside due to the cold weather - spreading rapidly as families travel during the Christmas season and as children return to school from winter break.

Those most at risk and in need of vaccination are those at the extremes of young and old age, pregnant women and those with medical conditions that compromise their immune systems.

Flu vaccinations take effect by preparing an individual's immune system to attack the virus by injecting the system with proteins from dead viruses. This primes the system to create antibodies to attack should a live virus enter the body.

Follow reporter Bishop Nash on Twitter @BishopNash.

 
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