US Flu Season Hits Its Peak
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) held a recent briefing on flu season as 49 states report widespread flu activity.
With all but just 1 state reporting widespread influenza activity during Week 1 ending January 6, 2018, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the United States has hit its peak for flu season.
According to the CDC’s weekly FluView report, Hawaii reported regional flu activity during week 1, making it the only state not experiencing widespread flu. The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness has held steady at 5.8%, still well above the national baseline of 2.2%. The CDC also notes that flu-related hospitalizations since October 1, 2017, rose to 6,486, a sharp increase from the 3,927 hospitalizations reported the previous week by the CDC. In addition, 7 flu-related pediatric deaths were reported to the CDC during week 1, bringing the total number of pediatric flu deaths to 20 so far, this season.
The recent death of Nico Mallozzi, a 10-year-old Connecticut boy, was the state’s first child flu death of the season. The fourth-grader left a hockey tournament after feeling sick and went to the emergency room. Following his death on January 14, New Canaan’s health director said that the boy tested positive for influenza B and died from complication of pneumonia that developed into a case of sepsis. The superintendent of New Canaan Public Schools, Bryan Luizzi, released a message following the death offering grief counseling to students and noting that the school was performing extra cleanings to help stop the spread of flu. “As we know, Influenza poses a serious health risk, and regardless of its possible connection with this tragedy it is important for everyone to take appropriate precautions, including receiving the influenza vaccination as recommended by the CDC,” Luizzi said. “Additionally, anyone experiencing signs and symptoms of the flu should seek medical advice from a physician, and please do not send your child to school if he/she is not feeling well.”
Due to an upsurge of flu patients in California, many hospital workers have resorted to treating their patients in "surge tents," which are usually intended for major disasters, according to LA Times. At least this is the case for the staff at Loma Linda University Medical Center. The giant, brown tents have been set up in their emergency room parking lot and have been lined with folding chairs and patient beds that are separated by sheets that are hung from the ceiling, according to the news source. The executive director for the hospital's emergency services, Connie Cunningham, is reported as saying that she had initially thought that the team would dismantle the tents after a few days, "but the staff is still treating 60 more patients each day than usual." According to Cunningham, she has never seen anything like this in her entire career.
Meanwhile, on Friday, January 12, the CDC held a briefing on current flu activity in the US, providing advice on how to prevent the flu and reduce the risk of developing serious illness from the virus. The CDC has estimated that this season the flu vaccine will be about as effective as it was last season against the influenza A(H3N2) virus, the strain that has been predominant this flu season. Last season, the flu vaccine was about 32% effective against A(H3N2). At the briefing, the CDC’s director of the influenza division, Dan Jernigan, MD, MPH, noted that among those who have been hospitalized for the flu this season, the rates are highest for adults age 65 and older, and also high for those who are age 50 to 64.
“We are currently in the midst of a very active flu season, with much of the country experiencing widespread and intense flu activity,” said CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald, MD, at the briefing. She noted that despite getting vaccinated, many individuals have caught the flu this season and needed treatment with prescription medicine. “So far, this season, influenza A(H3N2) has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths. While our surveillance systems show that nationally the flu season may be peaking now, we know from past experience that it will take many more weeks for flu activity to truly slow down,” she said.