As widespread and regional flu activity in the United States continues to dwindle, health officials are ready to say "goodbye" to flu season as they channel their efforts into preparing for the next one.
With widespread flu activity in the United States down to its lowest point since December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the 2016-2017 flu season has peaked and is winding down.
Connecticut, New Hampshire, and New York were the last three states reporting widespread flu activity for the week ending April 29, according to the CDC’s latest FluView report. Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Guam reported continued regional flu activity for the same week, while local and sporadic flu activity is still occurring in the rest of the states. Health officials expect declining but sporadic flu activity to continue throughout the United States in the weeks to come, as the CDC notes that a flu season can last until as late as May.
The New York State Department of Health’s most recent influenza surveillance report for the week ending April 29 notes that while influenza activity level in the state was still categorized as widespread, the state saw a 44% decrease in laboratory-confirmed influenza reports over the previous week. In addition, the percentage of patient visits for influenza-like illness statewide was 0.68% for the week, which is below the regional baseline of 3.00%. The state report from April 29 noted that 58 counties in New York reported flu cases that week, though an official press release reported that the New York State Commissioner Howard A. Zucker, MD, JD, declared that the flu was no longer prevalent in the state, indicating that the number of cases and statewide activity of the virus have continued to drop.
"Even though the flu is no longer prevalent in New York, it's important for everyone to know they can still get it," said Dr. Zucker in a statement. Flu activity in New York peaked in February, when there were more than 6,000 laboratory-confirmed cases in one week, while there were just 783 laboratory-confirmed flu cases for the last week in April. "If you do get the flu, I urge you to take precautions to prevent it from spreading. Stay home from work and avoid public places. Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. It's important we all do our part in preventing the transmission of flu."
The CDC and other state and local health agencies are already looking ahead to prepare for the 2017-2018 flu season, and are expecting a season with similar circulating viruses and vaccine component recommendations. In the case of a new pandemic virus in the next flu season, the CDC has issued new guidelines on pandemic assessment and planning tools. For flu seasons to come, the CDC’s new Pandemic Severity Assessment Framework will replace the prior Pandemic Severity Index and will address the issue of judging a pandemic’s severity in its early stages by using multiple clinical and epidemiologic indicators to provide a more comprehensive assessment of the transmissibility and clinical severity, according to the report.