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Flu Season Still Peaking in Some US States

MAR 09, 2017 | EINAV KEET
While flu activity in the United States continues its gradual decline as spring draws near, new influenza-related deaths in adults and young children highlight how active and dangerous this flu season continues to be.

In its new weekly FluView report, the eighth one of the year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported six new influenza-related deaths, bringing the total number to at least 40 deaths so far for the 2016-2017 flu season. During the 2015-2016 flu season, the United States reported a total of 89 pediatric deaths, and for the previous flu season, 148. The CDC notes that the flu can be much more dangerous in children, particularly those under the age of 5, as well as in those with chronic health conditions such as asthma, who are at higher risk of influenza-related complications.

In Wisconsin, the City of Milwaukee Health Department confirmed on March 7 the influenza-associated death of a local child. The death comes as city health officials note that they have seen 278 flu-related hospitalizations, though most of those have occurred in adults ages 50 and older. Spokespeople for the city have only confirmed that the child who died was not an infant or a toddler, releasing no other details about the case. “We are deeply saddened to learn that a child has died of complications related to the seasonal flu, and our thoughts remain with the child’s family,” said Commissioner of Health Bevan K. Baker in a recent press release, noting that the flu can be a serious illness. “We urge all area residents to take steps to prevent the spread of flu in our community. Remember, even if you think you can beat the flu, you may spread it to others who are more vulnerable.”

The flu is now widespread in 43 states, down from 44 states in the previous week, while the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness has held steady at 4.8%. The flu season is reaching its peak in states such as Georgia and New Mexico, according to local health officials, who are still urging local residents who have not received the flu shot to get vaccinated. While the CDC notes that it takes about two weeks after receiving the flu vaccination for the body to develop antibodies to the virus, it also reports that the flu season can last into the month of May, meaning that there’s still time to get the shot and prevent flu-related illness this season.

Pregnant women who have not received the flu shot can safely take neuraminidase inhibitors to fight a flu infection, according to a new study published in The BMJ. The study’s authors looked at 5,824 women exposed to the antiviral drugs and their infants, along with 692,232 who were not exposed. They found that babies exposed to neuraminidase inhibitors in utero did not have an increased risk of low birth weight, low Apgar score, preterm birth, smaller gestational age birth, stillbirth, neonatal mortality, neonatal morbidity, or congenital malformations. The researchers note that their study did not include women who had taken the antiviral medications before 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, their study results “support previously reported findings that the use of neuraminidase inhibitors is not associated with increased risks of adverse fetal or neonatal outcomes.”
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