Flu cases mostly peak in the U.S.

(Photo: Kimberly Suiters)

A patient diagnosed with the flu in Maryland has died, officials at Frederick Memorial Hospital confirm.

And health officials in the District say flu cases have more than tripled since last flu season.

Meanwhile, some places with flu shots are running out.

More than half the country is now reporting severely high levels of flu cases.

“It’s hitting pretty fast. When it hits you, it knocks you quick,” said Owasso, Okla. resident Shirley High.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, dozens have died including at least 18 children. The most recent flu map released by the CDC indicates the vast majority of the United States is reporting widespread flu conditions.

“We are all a little overwhelmed. Not only the practitioners, but the caregivers in general,” said Dr. Randy Tartakoff of Holy Name Hospital of Teaneck, New Jersey.

Over 128 million vaccine doses have been distributed nationwide, with pharmacies and clinics quickly running out..

As hospitals throughout the region continue to battle the flu and deal with an influx of patients, Inova Hospitals in Virginia are instituting restricted visitation measures effective immediately.

These new measures restrict visits to people aged 18 years or older with no symptoms of the flu present. Visits are limited to two blocks of time - from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Only two people may visit patients at a time and visitors may be issued masks or protective clothing.

On Friday, a line of 323 students and faculty lined up at a free flu shot clinic on the University of Maryland’s College Park Campus. The university ordered 3,500 doses this flu season and administered nearly all of them.
Traditional vaccination sites teeter between running out and re-ordering.

District resident Tom Beckman's girlfriend insisted he get vaccinated. He snagged this pharmacy's last dose before the next shipment.

In Arlington, the Capitol Travel Clinic typically provides vaccinations for overseas trips. Their phones have been ringing off the hook in just the past 48 hours.

Inova Alexandria's Dr. Martin Brown says the supply is ample. But Brown says the emphasis to get vaccinated now is more severe because people see so much flu activity.

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene says flu is widespread across Maryland but there are signs it may be stabilizing.

State Epidemiologist David Blythe said Friday that some indicators are stable or up slightly, while others are decreasing.

The agency says the intensity of flu-like illness in Maryland was moderate as of Jan. 5. That's an improvement from a rating of "high" the week before.

The department says there were 199 flu-associated hospitalizations in the week ending Jan. 5. That's an improvement over the 256 hospitalizations in the previous week.

Most of the recent cases involve people over 65.

Blythe says some clinics might be out of flu vaccine, so people might have to call around.

No children's deaths have been reported.

District of Columbia health officials say flu cases in the city have more than tripled since last flu season - with about half of the season remaining.

The city's health department says hospitals have reported 310 cases of influenza since the season began in late September. Just since Jan. 1, there have been 40 new cases.

Last flu season, there were 97 reported cases. The season ran from early October to late May.

Officials say no one has died from the flu this season.

Health officials are urging residents to get vaccinated and say the vaccine is still widely available.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in late December that the district was one of just a few states and territories not experiencing "widespread" flu outbreaks.

Business impact

Throughout the Washington area, businesses are feeling the impact of the flu as well.

Retailers have lost workers calling out sick and worry that word of the bad flu season may keep some shoppers out of stores and shopping online instead to avoid others.

It’s the same for area restaurants. Many are losing crucial wait staff to illness and worry an anxious public will stay home this flu season rather than going out and spending money.

And as the stands go up along Pennsylvania Avenue for President Obama's inauguration, businesses hope fear of the flu doesn't give tourists second thoughts about travel.

To find vaccines, click here.

{ }