MONDAY, MARCH 19, 2018

Flu activity increases in Northern Hemisphere

Flu activity in the Northern Hemisphere increased sharply in Friday's World Health Organization update, led by a rising number of infections in the United States and Canada in the days before Christmas.

The WHO's biweekly update said that H3N2 is the dominant strain of flu in Canada and the U.S. and that influenza B is playing a larger role in the U.S. than in Canada. Respiratory specimens testing positive for flu remained high in Mexico at 25 percent, CIDRAP News reports.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Friday that most flu indicators continue to rise and that the highest activity levels are in the southeastern and south central states. The number of states reporting widespread flu increased from 18 the previous week to 29 in the most recent report.

"Today's report confirms that the U.S. flu season is off to an early start though it's too early to tell how severe our season might be," Tom Frieden, the CDC's director, said, according to CIDRAP News.

Frieden said that it is not too late for people to receive the most important step for influenza protection, a flu vaccination.

Deaths from flu and pneumonia remained under the epidemic threshold. Eight pediatric flu deaths have been reported this season in the U.S.

Parts of Europe also detected higher numbers of flu cases, with increasing activity reported in Wales, Spain, Slovakia, Luxembourg, Ireland, Hungary, Germany and France, CIDRAP News reports.