February 21, 2014 at 6:56 am

Flu hits young, middle-aged hardest

CDC says season is waning; Michigan echoes national results

Atlantaó Flu season seems to be winding down, and itís been an odd one.

It hasnít been as bad as last year and the vaccine worked a little better. And it has been a fairly mild one for the elderly ó traditionally the most vulnerable group.

But itís been a different story for young and middle-age adults, who have been hit harder than expected because of a surge in swine flu.

Most flu seasons, only one-third of the people who land in the hospital with the flu are adults ages 18-64. This winter, they have accounted for two-thirds, most of them adults who were obese or had another ailment.

The numbers ďare painful reminders that flu can be serious for anyone, not just infants and the very old,Ē said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Data from the Michigan Department of Community Health is consistent with the national trend, said spokeswoman Angela Minicuci.

While the total volume of cases has not been as big of a concern in Michigan, the demographic of who was most severely impacted this season is. Young adults in the state were much more affected by the flu this season than normal, Minicuci said.

The CDC released new information Thursday about the flu season, which started around mid-December, a bit earlier than usual, and apparently peaked by mid-January. Last winter, it started even earlier.

For weeks, flu has been waning in some parts of the country, although health officials say thereís still a lot of flu virus going around and flu season is capable of getting a second wind.

One way the CDC measures the fluís severity is by rates of hospitalizations for flu and its complications. Overall, they have been only half what they were last winter.

Health officials say thatís because the flu strain that is making most people sick this winter is swine flu, or H1N1, that first showed up in 2009.

Since then, the virus has been around each winter but mostly has been a backstage presence. Experts say the virus hasnít mutated. Itís simply encountering a lot of younger adults who never were infected before and havenít been vaccinated.

Detroit News Staff Writer Ursula Watson contributed.