The United States continues to endure an early flu season, with most of the country experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In this weeks FluView report, which includes data for the week between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5, some key flu indicators continued to rise while others fell. That might mean flu activity has peaked in some regions, such as the South and Southeast, while remaining on the upswing in others, such as the West, according to the CDC.
The proportion of people seeing their healthcare provider for influenza-like illness decreased from 6% to 4.3% for the week ending Jan. 5, but remained above the national baseline of 2.2% for the fifth consecutive week.
Twenty-four states and New York City reported high ILI activity, down from 29 states the week before. Additionally, 16 states reported moderate levels of ILI activity, an increase from nine states the prior week. States reporting high ILI activity for the week ending Jan. 5 were Alabama, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.
Since Oct. 1, 3,710 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported, an increase of 1,443 hospitalizations from the previous week. This total translates to a rate of 13.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States. (Hospitalization data are collected from 15 states to calculate a rate of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations that is reasonably representative of the nation. These data do not reflect the actual total number of influenza-associated hospitalizations in the United States.)
Influenza-associated hospitalizations are highest among people 65 and older. Of the 3,710 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season, 46% have been among that age group.
Two influenza-related pediatric deaths were reported during the week ending Jan. 5. One of the deaths was associated with an influenza A (H3) virus, and one was associated with an influenza A virus of unknown subtype. This brings to 20 the total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to the CDC for 2012-13.
This years flu vaccine is said to be 62% effective, according to the CDC, meaning anyone who has received the shot is 62% less likely to visit their physician because of influenza-like illness.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, said the CDC cannot draw conclusions about who may benefit most from the flu vaccine this year, but anecdotally it appears to be more effective in children than in adults.
“The flu vaccine is far from perfect, but its still by far the best tool we have to prevent the flu,” Frieden said. “Were hearing of shortages of the vaccine, so if you havent been vaccinated and want to be, its better late than never.”