Flu cases in Southeast US surge; Jacksonville doctor estimates 75% of her recent patients have had virus

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Flu hospitalizations have surged to a decade high in the U.S., according to a report by CNBC, and the Southeast is said to be the hardest-hit region.

The report cites data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which showed that five out of every 100,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized with the flu during the week ending Nov. 5. It’s the highest hospitalization rate this early in the flu season since 2010.

Dr. Victoria Helow, the principal investigator for Encore Reasearch Group, says flu cases started spiking early in Jacksonville this year.

“Seventy-five percent of patients we’ve been seeing have been positive for the flu,” she said.

The cases, Helow said, are “much more” than were being reported in the area this time last year.

“We have patients waiting in the emergency room for sometimes hours, sometimes longer waiting for beds to become available,” Helow said.

The CDC map shows that Florida in recent weeks is one of the few states that have a “high” activity level. By comparison, last year was “low” at this time.

“Reason being is we’ve been wearing masks for two years, haven’t had a low level flu going around where people are getting what we call herd immunity,” Helow said.

The type of flu that’s hitting people hard right now, she said, is Influenza A, which is highly contagious.

“A lot of people don’t realize that’s what they have. They take the COVID test and it’s negative,” Helow said.

The good news is the flu vaccine works to protect against severe cases of Influenza A and B. But Helow said she hasn’t seen many people get their flu vaccines this year.

“The number of people that have been vaccinated in the emergency room have been low for the ones that are really sick,” Helow said. “I’ve had a few of them who have been vaccinated, but they haven’t been as sickly.”

About the Author:

Brie Isom joined the News4JAX team in January 2021 after spending three years covering news in South Bend, Indiana.