Achoo! Cold and Flu Season is Worse This Year

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    It's been a heavy flu year.

    Attention sneezing, sniffling, coughing cold- and flu-sufferers: As miserable as you are, at least you're not alone.

    So far, 2011 has been a bad year for colds and flu, worse than the past two years, at least according to a new survey from the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index.

    In January, 10.2 percent of Americans reported that they had a cold the day before the survey, up from 10 percent in December, according to Gallup. That's higher than the 8.4 percent of people who reported colds last year, and the 9.2 percent who had colds in January 2009.

     

    At the same time, people reporting flu is on the rise, climbing to 3.1 percent in January, down from 2.4 percent last year and 2.9 percent in 2009, according to the poll, which asks 1,000 Americans each day whether they had a cold or flu the day before.

    The season has been particularly nasty in the Eastern U.S., where reported colds have jumped 3.1 percent and flu climbed 1.8 percent since November, the study said.

    That jibes with more formal accounts kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which reported that flu activity for the week ending Jan. 29 was elevated in seven of the country's 10 surveillance regions and that widespread influenza was logged in 30 states.

    Nearly 33 percent of specimens taken from patients with respiratory illness and reported to the CDC labs tested positive for influenza. In Region 5, which includes Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin, nearly 58 percent of specimens tested positive for flu. About 25 percent of flu cases were caused by H1N1, the virus that spawned a pandemic last year.

    So far, 19 people from 13 states have died from flu-associated illness this flu season, including six children.

    As of November, about one-third of the U.S. population had been vaccinated against the flu from a supply of 160 million doses. CDC officials say they'll check again at the end of the season.