Influenza rates on the rise in Northern Hemisphere

Influenza activity increased in multiple Northern Hemisphere locations including the United States, though officials from the World Health Organization are not yet sure if this year's flu season will be a bad one.

Flu activity is reported as widespread in one state in the United States - Mississippi - and 13 states and Puerto Rico are experiencing regional flu activity, which is up nine states from the week before, CIDRAP News reports.

The WHO has reported that flu activity in many European countries is increasing, including a large spike in 2009 H1N1 influenza activity in the United Kingdom. Flu activity in the United States is increasing much slower in comparison.

The flu levels in the Northern Hemisphere appears to be less severe than that of 2009, but officials still stress that at-risk groups be prepared with flu vaccinations.

"The magnitude of the problem in comparison to last year is still uncertain but does not appear to be worse than 2009," Dr. Tony Mounts, team leader for epidemiology and surveillance with the WHO's Global Influenza Program, said, according to CIDRAP News. "We would really like to remind people, especially healthcare workers, that high-risk people should be vaccinated, where the vaccine in available, and should be considered for early treatment with antivirals if they develop flu-like illness in areas where surveillance demonstrates circulation of H1N1."

While all three seasonal strains of influenza are currently circulating in the United States, most of it is influenza A - H3N2 - and influenza B. The strains the Centers for Disease Control has analyzed still appear to be a strong match to the seasonal flu vaccine.