Alaska has been hit hard by the flu this year. They have reported 11 COVID-19 deaths and near-record hospitalizations Tuesday morning. The death toll is almost double what it was at this time last year, when six people had died from the virus. In addition to the deadlier strain of flu, there are also a higher number of cases in Alaska than usual due to more people being outside for winter activities like skiing and snowmobiling. We are getting more because people are out of their homes more, said Erika Aberle, public health nurse at the Alaska Division of Public Health.
Aberle also stated that the flu season started early this year, but it’s hard to tell whether or not there will be an epidemic in Alaska due to how widespread it already is. It’s hard to predict. What we know is that the flu season has started earlier and it looks like it will continue longer into spring.
According to CDC data from past flu seasons, Alaska usually only see five COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 people. This year, there have been 11 cases in a population of 736,732 people.
The flu is widespread all over the country, with 47 states reporting cases in their territories, according to data released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention . Alaska is one of 17 states that reported high levels of influenza-like illness during the week ending February 3rd. The CDC defines this as when more than 5% of deaths are caused by pneumonia and flu.
CDC data estimates that there were 12,000 COVID-19 related deaths in the third week of January. This puts Alaska in line with most other states reporting high levels of illness, especially for this time of year. By comparison, only six people had died from COVID-19 during the same week last year.
While the flu has not reached epidemic levels yet, Aberle said that there is always a chance.We have seen it in Southcentral before, she said. The most recent cases were reported in Fairbanks, where nine children between 6 months and 18 years of age tested positive for COVID-19. If we get an epidemic, it would be quite different, Aberle said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The CDC recommends yearly flu vaccinations for all adults and children over the age of six months. This year, the new vaccine is designed to protect against three strains of influenza including COVID-19. Flu vaccines are still recommended as long as there’s the possibility that new cases could emerge, Aberle said. We do still have a vaccine that’s available, she added, saying that a lot of people have been getting flu shots so far this year.
If you experience serious symptoms from the flu, such as vomiting and diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately. These are signs that your body is already fighting another illness or infection, which could put your life in danger. The CDC recommends going to a doctor if you have a high fever, greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and feel very weak despite resting for three days .