JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Flu hospitalizations are the highest they have been in 10 years, and the Southeast U.S. is being hit particularly hard with more than 2,000 patients hospitalized.
The influenza A H3N2 strain appears to be the most common in the southeastern states.
Among the states being hit hardest by flu is Florida and it’s being hit earlier than usual.
Five out of every 100,000 people nationwide have been hospitalized with the flu this year.
“It’s not unusual for us to see a spike of the flu. What’s unusual is that we’re seeing it so early. And we’re seeing such a large spike,” explained Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation. “So, a lot of this is likely due to the fact that over the last couple of years, with the pandemic, we have been taking precautions to negate the spread of viruses. We kind of stopped doing that now. The flu is starting to affect people at higher levels now than at past levels in past years.”
This particular strain is associated with more severe illness in young children and the elderly. Joshi said even though there is an effective flu vaccine available, there is still a lot of hesitancy to get the shot.
“There is definitely a vaccine hesitancy happening out there now. If you think back to 2020 when the pandemic first started and we were waiting for the COVID vaccines to come out, there was some interest in getting vaccines, and throughout the country and particularly here in Duval County, our vaccination rate went up,” Joshi said. “But they went down significantly last year. And a lot of that is because of the misinformation that was put out there about the COVID vaccine.”
Joshi said the flu shot is safe with minimal and usually mild side effects. He said the flu shot is usually covered by insurance and, if not, vouchers are available through the #FluVaxJax Program to have the cost covered.
For more information on #FluVaxJax, click here.