#1: Influenza B Cases Continue to Rise in the United States
Although winter is long over, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expect “significant flu activity to continue in the coming weeks.”
Influenza activity has been dropping nationwide over the past 5 weeks, according to the CDC. The predominant circulating strain at the beginning of the 2016-2017 flu season was influenza A (H3N2); however, a drop in H3N2 cases towards the end of the season was superseded by influenza B, marking a prolonged flu season that will continue into spring.
According to a CDC FluView report for the week ending March 18, 2017, of the respiratory specimens collected nationwide from individuals positive for the flu, approximately 53% had influenza A, while about 47% had influenza B. In the previous week, these numbers were 61% and 39% respectively.
“Overall the percentage of respiratory specimens that tested positive for flu has declined to 18.3% from the previous week’s rate of 18.6%, though there are indicators that the virus continues to impact many parts of the country.”
At the moment, nine US states are reporting influenza-like illnesses (ILI), while 23 US states are reporting minimal ILI. "Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Virginia are still reporting high ILI activity.”
To this end, Alabama recently proposed a new bill that would compel all schools in the state to provide parents and guardians with information on CDC immunization recommendations, the influenza vaccine, symptoms, transmission, and other infectious diseases. This comes on the heels of high flu activity in the state that caused several schools to close down.
In an attempt to increase influenza vaccination rates, a new study from Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania illustrated how a new technique called “active choice” may be able to help physicians increase the rate of patient vaccination for the flu. The study found that by informing patients that they are eligible for a flu vaccine and asking them to either accept or decline vaccination, there was a 6% increase in vaccination rates in comparison to vaccination rates at clinics not using the method, and a 37% relative increase in comparison to vaccination rates from the previous years.
Lead author Mitesh S. Patel, MD, MBA, MS, said, “Our results indicate that this simple intervention could be an effective and scalable approach to use the design of electronic health records to increase the rate of flu vaccinations, which are estimated to prevent millions of flu cases and tens of thousands of related hospitalizations every year.”
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