As predicted, this year's flu season is already a doozy: It features a more severe strain, it started earlier, it's hitting more people, and it has affected a wider swath of the country than usual, USA Today reports. Flu season started earlier this year than it has in the past 10 to 12 years, and by the end of 2012, 18 children had died and 2,257 had been hospitalized as a result. And things could get much worse: One Mayo Clinic expert recalls that "a decade ago, when we had widespread circulation [of seasonal flu], we had 70,000 deaths in the US."
The proportion of people with flulike symptoms and the states reporting such illnesses are both on the rise, and a flurry of local stories today illustrate the problems in various states: There's quite an abundance, but here's a sampling:
- Flu cases spiked in New Jersey last month, the Star-Ledger reports; the state has seen about twice the number of flu-related ER visits as it did last year.
- In Chicago, some ERs are actually turning away patients because they're so overwhelmed with flu cases, CBS Chicago reports.
- In Cleveland, medical centers are limiting visitors in an effort to control the spread, Fox 8 reports.
- And in Florida, even people who got a flu shot still got sick, ABC News reports. NPR explains that this is a common problem, since the vaccine is only 60% effective—plus it takes about two weeks to kick in, and doesn't necessarily cover all strains of the virus.