During the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) update on flu activity in the United States Friday, director of CDC’s Influenza Division, Dr. Daniel Jernigan said while flu activity is beginning to go down in parts of the country, it remains high for most the U.S., with some areas still rising.
Most people with influenza are being infected with the H3N2 influenza virus. And in seasons where H3N2 is the main cause of influenza, we see more cases, more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more deaths, especially among older people. This season now looking like the 2014-15 season where H3N2 predominated. In that season, was categorized as a high severity season.
For the week ending January 20, the rate of hospitalizations are very similar to what we saw in 2014-15, which was, as I said, a high severity season. This week, we’re reporting 41.9 per 100,000 is the rate for hospitalizations. The rate is about the same as it was in 2014-15. If you go back to the 2014-15 season, for that whole season, the total amount of hospitalizations was around 710,000 so we would expect at the end of this season to have something probably around that number.
We’ve experienced two notable characteristics of flu this season: The first is that flu activity became widespread within almost all states and jurisdictions at the same time, The second is that flu activity has now stayed at the same level for 3 weeks in a row, with 49 states reporting widespread activity, each week, for 3 weeks.
If we look at what is happening at Doctor’s offices and emergency departments we are clearly seeing a lot of people going to see the doctor or being seen in urgent care settings. The number of people going in to see a doctor for influenza-like-illness increased again this week, rising to 6.6%; that means that 6.6% of all people coming into the clinics and emergency departments had influenza-like illness. This is the highest level of activity recorded since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, which peaked at 7.7%.
Pneumonia and influenza deaths went up sharply to 9.1% this week and they’ve been elevated for three consecutive weeks. For two of the recent H3N2 seasons, 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons, pneumonia and influenza deaths peaked at 11.1 and around 10.8 percent respectively. So we haven’t reached those peaks yet but it’s still early in the season so we may be getting to those we expect this season to reach or surpass those numbers as the season progresses.
For prevention, CDC is still recommending getting a flu shot. While getting a vaccine earlier in the season is better, there is still a lot of the season to go and vaccination now could still provide some benefit.
The CDC released the following announcement concerning the antiviral drug supply:
CDC is in regular contact with influenza antiviral manufacturers regarding supply and other issues. While the total reported national supply of influenza antiviral drugs should be sufficient to meet even high seasonal demand, some manufacturers are reporting delays in filling orders and CDC is aware of spot shortages of antiviral drugs in some places experiencing high influenza activity. CDC is working with manufacturers to address any existing gaps in the market.
- Pharmacies and others attempting to make bulk purchases of influenza antiviral drugs may need to call more than one distributor or manufacturer to locate medications available for purchase in the short term. CDC has updated its antiviral drug supply web page with manufacturer information for inquires related to antiviral purchases/availability.
- Individual patients seeking to fill an influenza antiviral prescription may want to call ahead to make sure their pharmacy has product on the shelf to fill their prescription. It may be necessary to call more than one pharmacy to locate these medications.
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