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January 27, 2014
Category: In the News
Tags: Untagged

Flu Season Continues; Severity Indicators Rise

CDC continues to urge vaccination and rapid treatment with antiviral drugs for people at high risk of serious flu complications including pregnant women, people who are morbidly obese and people with metabolic disorders

January 17, 2014 – H1N1 flu continues to cause a lot of illness across the country and flu-related hospitalization and death indicators are up this week from last, according to CDC’s latest FluView report. The estimated proportion of flu- and pneumonia-related deaths is now above the epidemic threshold for the first time this season; this means that more pneumonia and influenza deaths are occurring than expected for this time of year. Additionally, the number of pediatric deaths reported to CDC this season doubled this week from 10 to 20. More than 60 percent of hospitalizations continue to occur in people between the ages of 18 and 64: while this is a somewhat unusual pattern for seasonal flu, a similar age distribution for hospitalizations was seen during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. The pandemic was the last time that H1N1 viruses were the predominant circulating flu virus. Taken together, these indicators underscore the impact that seasonal flu is having on the United States, particularly on younger people.

CDC continues to recommend that people who have not gotten vaccinated yet this season get vaccinated now. While activity may be declining in states where the season began earlier, nationally the country is likely to experience several more weeks of high flu activity as flu spreads to other states. The number of states reporting high influenza-like-illness fell from 20 to 14 this week, but the number of states reporting widespread flu activity increased from 36 to 40.

CDC also is reminding clinicians and members of the public at high risk for serious flu complications about the importance of rapid antiviral treatment. Influenza antiviral drugs are a second line of defense against the flu; prompt treatment can reduce serious illness and death. These drugs work best when started soon after influenza symptoms begin (within 2 days), but persons with high-risk conditions can benefit even when antiviral treatment is started after the first two days of illness.

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