Twelve US States Are Now Reporting Widespread Flu Activity

More states are reporting widespread flu activity as CDC researchers up their annual estimate of flu deaths around the world.

In a new report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shares that 12 states are experiencing widespread flu activity, up from 7 states the previous week. The weekly FluView report for week 49 ending December 9, 2017, adds California, Wisconsin, Missouri, Ohio, New York, and Connecticut to the list of states seeing widespread flu. In addition, the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) continued to rise above the national baseline—from 2.3% the previous week to 2.7%—and 7 of the 10 regions of the United States reported ILI levels at or above their baselines. Puerto Rico and 26 states reported regional flu activity, and 10 states reported local flu activity.

In Iowa, one case of human infection with an influenza A(H3N2) variant [A(H3N2)v] was reported in an adult under the age of 50 who came in direct contact with swine in the week before becoming ill. The CDC has reported 62 such cases of A(H3N2)v infections this season already—39 occurred Maryland, 15 in Ohio, and the rest occurred in Delaware, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The new FluView report also noted one influenza-associated pediatric death, which was reported in week 49 but occurred in week 44. On December 15, 2017, health officials in California’s Riverside County reported its first flu-related death of the season. According to local news reports, the victim was a Murrieta child under the age of 10 who died the previous day due to flu complications. Health officials did not know if the child had underlying health issues or if the child was vaccinated for the flu this season. “This is a tragic reminder that the flu still kills,” said county public health official Cameron Kaiser, MD, in a statement. “Get your flu shot and get protected.”

Meanwhile, Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) reported its first flu death of the season on December 13, 2017. The patient was a 47-year-old male resident of New Castle county who had multiple underlying health conditions, according to local health officials. “His death is a reminder of how serious the flu can be, especially among vulnerable populations,” said DPH director Karyl Rattay, MD, MS. “We often think of the very young and seniors when we think of the vulnerable, but people at any age with underlying health conditions are also at a greater risk of the flu and serious complications stemming from it.”

The issue of seasonal flu deaths gained global attention this week, as a new study led by CDC researchers has found that the global death rate from the flu is higher than previously estimated. As Contagion ® reported, the study, which was published in the Lancet, estimated that about 291,000 to 646,000 individuals around the world die from seasonal flu each year. Up until this study, the often-cited statistic was 250,000 to 500,000 annual flu deaths. The research team attributed the updated statistic to more countries conducting better flu surveillance, which, thus, paints a clearer picture of the flu’s true toll on public health. "This work adds to a growing global understanding of the burden of influenza and populations at highest risk,” said the study’s lead author, Danielle Iuliano, PhD, in a CDC press release. “It builds the evidence base for influenza vaccination programs in other countries.”