It knows no international boundaries and kills more people than war or terrorism and this year’s flu outbreak is among the deadliest in a century.
We are talking about the flu and this year’s strain is particularly nasty. Across the northern hemisphere hundreds are dying every week with many more weeks of the flu season left.
CGTN’s Nathan King reports.
Here in the U.S., hospitals from California to Georgia have been setting up special flu tents to cope with the influx of patients.
The CDC reports over 4,000 U.S. deaths a week from flu and pneumonia. Pneumonia is a common secondary infection following a bout of the flu.
And it’s not just the young and old that are getting very sick.
Joshua Lagade,a flu patient in California said from his hospital bed, “…I was throwing up all night, I thought it was something more serious than the flu because I’ve never had flu like this before. I’ve never had to throw up or even come into the hospital for the flu.”
In Japan the first week of February saw more than 2.8 million new cases.
In Hong Kong, schools were shut for Chinese New Year early after the outbreak claimed over 120 lives.
This year’s especially virulent flu strain, H3N2, is not entirely new, but is different enough that vaccines only give about 30 percent protection from the virus in the U.S.
In Canada last month, it proved even less effective.
Many countries in North Africa and the Middle East are also seeing an increase of the H1N1 strain of flu—better known as the Swine Flu that spread across the globe in 2009 killing thousands.
The World Health Organization says cases in Europe are well above normal and China is seeing the highest levels of flu cases in four seasons.
This particularly nasty flu season falls on the 100th anniversary of the biggest Flu pandemic in history. The 1918 outbreak is estimated to have killed between 20 and 50 million people worldwide.
It’s a reminder that one of the world’s most common diseases is also one of its deadliest.
Despite strong scientific advances over the last century in the battle against flu, the ultimate weapon is a vaccine that would protect against every strain is still elusive.
And with the virus’ ability to quickly mutate it is a war that is far from being won.