Flu activity remains high overall in the U.S., seniors hit the hardest: CDC
While some areas of the United States are showing some decreased activity of influenza, other areas are showing that flu is on the rise and overall influenza activity remains elevated in most of the country, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Situation Update released Jan. 25.
According to the update, influenza-like-illness (ILI) activity levels are declining in the South, Southeast, New England and the Midwest, but increasing in the Mid-Atlantic, Southwest and the Northwest.
Twenty-six states and New York City are reporting high ILI activity, this is down from 30 states a week ago.
Forty-seven states reported widespread geographic influenza activity for the week of January 13-19, 2013. This decreased from 48 states in the previous week.
This influenza season is taking its heaviest toll on seniors, those 65 and older and federal health officials are urging this group to seek treatment for flu symptoms quickly and for physicians to treat flu with antiviral medications in these high risk patients as early as possible to avert more serious outcomes.
Of the nearly 6,200 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season, more than half have been individuals over the age of 65.
“It’s not surprising to see severity indicators increasing at this point in the season because hospitalizations and deaths typically lag behind other flu activity indicators – but the increases are visually dramatic,” says CDC’s Dr. Lyn Finelli, Lead for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in CDC’s Influenza Division. “The overall picture is clear. This season is severe for seniors, who are being hit hardest in terms of serious illnesses and deaths. It’s really important that these people seek care and get treated promptly.”
According to Finelli, the pattern of severity among seniors this season is similar to some previous seasons during which influenza A (H3N2) viruses predominated. On average, CDC estimates that seniors account for about 60 percent of flu-related hospitalizations and 90 percent of flu-related deaths. “We are well within normal parameters for an H3N2-predominant influenza season, but the high amount of flu activity still translates into a lot of people being sick and some severely sick,” says Finelli.
In addition to how the flu is affecting seniors, the CDC is also reporting eight additional pediatric influenza-related deaths, bringing the total to 37 this 2012-2013 flu season.
The majority of flu cases that are antigenically characterized by the CDC remains influenza A (H3N2) viruses.
The agency has reported the first case of oseltamivir (Tamiflu)-resistant 2009 H1N1 virus last week. However, the vast majority of circulating influenza viruses are susceptible to Tamiflu and Relenza so far this season.
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