Flu is widespread in all but three states (Hawaii, California, and Mississippi):
But there was one bit of good news Friday: The number of hard-hit areas declined.
The flu season in the U.S. got under way a month early, in December, driven by a strain that tends to make people sicker. That led to worries that it might be a bad season, following one of the mildest flu seasons in recent memory.
The latest numbers do show that the flu surpassed an “epidemic” threshold last week.
THE VACCINE: This season’s vaccine is well matched to the circulating strains, and there’s still some available. It is 62 percent effective, according to government study results released Friday, which is pretty good for a flu vaccine. Health officials are urging people to get vaccinated; it’s recommended for everyone 6 months or older.
THE DEFENSE: Besides getting a flu shot, wash hands with soap and warm water, and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Keep away from sick people.
THE TREATMENT: Most people will get a mild case and can help themselves and protect others by staying home and resting. But people with severe symptoms should see a doctor. They may be given antiviral drugs or other medications to ease symptoms.
In New York, the governor has taken action:
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today declared a Public Health Emergency for all of New York State in response to this year’s increasingly severe flu season. The Governor issued an Executive Order which allows pharmacists to administer flu vaccinations to patients between six months and 18 years of age. This Order suspends for the next 30 days the section of State Education Law that limits the authority of pharmacists to administer immunizing agents only to individuals 18 years of age or older.