The number of flu cases in Alaska in January has soared past the monthly levels recorded in the last four years, according to a report by the state Division of Public Health.
Health officials have confirmed 1,279 flu cases in January, more than 15 times the number of cases recorded in December, the Anchorage Daily News reported Wednesday.
Every region in the state recorded a spike in cases last month, with the most dramatic upticks in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, and the Interior.
The state has confirmed 1,606 flu cases since September. It recorded 6,619 cases during the last flu season.
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"What's unusual so far this year is it usually sorts of bumps along for a little bit and then it takes off," epidemiologist Louisa Castrodale said.
It's hard to know why cases abruptly spiked this year, and it's difficult to predict how the flu season will proceed, Castrodale said.
The Alaska Native Medical Center had an average of two flu cases a week in December, hospital spokeswoman Shirley Young said. The Anchorage hospital had 20 to 30 cases each week last month.
Providers treated nearly 50 flu patients within a 24-hour period between Monday and Tuesday, Young said.
"We are taking steps to educate people on how to stay healthy, such as getting their flu vaccine and performing frequent and thorough hand washing," Young said.
The Alaska Regional Hospital and Providence Alaska Medical Center, the city's other emergency hospitals, have also reported a higher than usual number of flu cases.