If your workplace isn't filled with the sound of coughing, sneezing and sniffling, consider yourself among the lucky few.
The H1N1 flu is now widespread in 40 states, including Idaho. "Widespread" means that more than half of the geographic region of a state is reporting flu activity. The designation addresses the spread of the flu, not its severity.
Additionally, 14 states, including Idaho, are experiencing a high proportion of outpatient visits to health care providers for flu-like symptoms.
The virus is taking advantage of some of the nation's most vulnerable: 10 children died across the U.S. from complications of the flu last week, bringing the pediatric death total for the season to 20. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does not have data on the number of adult flu deaths, though a South-Central Idaho man in December suffered the first flu-related death of the season, and a North Idaho man reportedly died from flu complications earlier this month. Experts estimate the number of flu-related deaths range from as low as 3,000 to as high as 49,000 people each year.
The unofficial flu season usually runs through April.
H1N1 is the same virus that caused a pandemic in 2009, Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in the CDC's flu division, has said. It was dubbed swine flu because it was being seen for the first time in humans.
Since then, "it's established itself very nicely in the human population," Jhung said. H1N1 has been seen in humans every season since 2009 and is no longer referred to as swine flu. The strain is so common that it was included in this year's vaccination, Jhung said.
Health care providers remind us that it's not too late to get a flu shot. In the meantime, the public is being cautioned to wash hands more frequently and stay home when sick. Doctors recommend using antivirals within the first two days of experiencing any flu-like symptoms.