US flu activity shows confusing pattern

Saturday, January 18, 2014
By Paul Martin

Robert Roos
CIDRAP News
Jan 17, 2014

The latest findings on influenza activity in the United States show a confusing pattern, with some markers down, others up, and states and regions seeing widely varying levels of cases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today that the percentage of medical visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) dropped last week, but flu is now widespread in 40 states, compared with 35 last week. The agency said it’s too soon to tell if the season has peaked.

“While ILI fell nationally, some states are showing increasing activity while others are declining as different states are at different points on the epidemic curve,” CDC spokeswoman Erin Burns told CIDRAP News.

Meanwhile, California officials said today that their state had 38 flu-related deaths last week, and they described the season as severe, at least so far. At the same time, 16 states reported minimal flu activity last week.

“I think we can say that so far this appears to be a pretty severe season in terms of looking at mortality as a measure of severity,” said California State Epidemiologist Gil Chavez, MD, MPH, at a press conference.

The CDC said 10 flu-related deaths in children were reported last week, doubling the seasonal total to 20. Also, the share of all deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza rose to 7.5% last week, putting it above the current epidemic threshold (7.2%) for the first time this season.

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