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Posts Tagged ‘CDC Flu Update’

Is This Season’s Flu More Severe Than Usual or Just Highly Active?

January 13, 2018 10 comments

At this point in the flu season people often wonder if all the media hype is part of an orchestrated effort to panic people about flu, or if it is really signaling serious concern.

There are lots of flu stories in the news these days.  From reports of  74 Californian’s who’ve died from flu – five times the number seen at this point last year – to 13 school districts in TX closing due to the high number of flu cases among students, we’re left to wonder….

Is this year’s flu season more severe than usual or just highly active at the moment?

A recent CDC media briefing has helped clarify the following concerns regarding the latest flu activity in the U.S.: 

Right now, flu is widespread everywhere.  

One of the most notable differences between this season and others is in relation to the geographic spread of flu. This is the first time over the course of 13 years of surveillance data that the entire nation is experiencing widespread flu at the exact same time, as can be noted by the color of CDC’s flu surveillance map below.

FluWeeklyReportActivity is severe right now.

 

One of the ways the CDC tracks influenza activity is to record the number of lab confirmed cases of flu and hospitalizations by week. What they’ve noted is a very rapid increase in the number of people seeing their healthcare providers for flu diagnosis, along with a rapid rise in the numbers of people being hospitalized with lab confirmed flu. For instance, this week’s surveillance data indicates that there’s been 22.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S., which is up considerably from the 13.7 number recorded last week.

So far this season, influenza A (H3N2), has been the most prevalent strain in circulation. Unfortunately, historically it is often the strain linked to more severe illness, especially among children and older individuals above the age of 65. Interestingly enough, the current flu surveillance observations seem to be in line with two more previous H3N2 dominant seasons; the 2014-2015 and 2012-2013 seasons.WHOPHL02_small

Additionally the hospitalizations so far this season seem to be in line with other H3N2 predominant seasons, with the highest rates among those over the age of 65, those between 50-64, and children under 5 years of age.

Flu can cause mild disease in some, but severe disease and death in others.

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Sadly, there have been as many as 30 pediatric deaths so far this season. While children are at great risk, there are plenty of reports of otherwise healthy adults who have been hospitalized or died from flu this season.

Peak season may have started early, but there are many more weeks to go.

Speaking to the media on behalf of the CDC on Friday, Dr.  Jernigan explained,

“If we look at the timing of the season, even if we have hit the top of the curve or the peak of the seasonal activity, it still means we have a lot more flu to go.”

He went on to suggest that there will likely be at least 11 to 13 more weeks of elevated influenza activity this season, before activity begins to subside. Even though it can take about two weeks for protection from vaccination to set in, Dr. Jernigan explained that we still have a lot of flu season to get through and that vaccination efforts should continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating.

While we are seeing a lot of H3N2 circulating now, we are also seeing H1N1 show up in states that have already had H3N2 activity. And we know that B viruses also tend to show up later in the season. Each of these strains are covered in the vaccine, so flu vaccination now can still help to prevent, or lessen the severity of flu throughout the remainder of the season.

Vaccination is our best defense.  

While flu vaccination is far from perfect, it remains our best defense. Not only can it help prevent flu, but it can also help lessen the severity of symptoms if a vaccinated person does end up getting infected.  This can reduce the chances of an individual being hospitalized or dying from flu.

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In fact, a recent study showed that influenza vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 65% among healthy children and by 51% among children with underlying high-risk medical conditions. Another study indicated that many older adults benefit from repeated flu vaccination. When getting vaccinated in both the current and previous seasons, the study found flu vaccination was 74% effective in preventing ICU admissions in older individuals and 70% effective in preventing deaths among older adults.

Manufacturers are reporting that they’ve shipped more than 151 million doses of flu vaccine this season, so there shouldn’t be a problem finding a flu vaccine in your area.  Simply refer to the flu vaccine finder for assistance.

We won’t know preliminary flu vaccine effectiveness until February.  

Read more…

Flu Deaths Among Young, Healthy and Unvaccinated

October 29, 2013 4 comments

The flu is predictably unpredictable.  Each year we know it’s coming and yet people – sometimes even children – will fall ill and die.  We just can’t predict when it will arrive, how severe it will be or how many will die as a result.   Yesterday’s news, included reports of four influenza cases in Michigan and the first flu related fatality in LA County, remind us that the 2013-2014 influenza season is upon us.  As prepared as I am, this USA Today headline seemed to sum up my constant concern as a mother:  Even Healthy Kids Can Die From Flu Complications

The article highlighted details of a new report published in Pediatrics entitled Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths in the United States, 2004-2012.

Some of the most notable statistics from the report include the following:

Don’t let the dark side win. Get your children a flu vaccine each and every year!

The flu is fatal to children:  830 kids died from flu-related complications between October 2004 and September 2012.  Their median age was 7.

Healthy kids die from flu:  43% of the children who died from flu associated deaths were otherwise healthy and didn’t have high-risk medical conditions.  Children without medical conditions were more likely to die before hospital admission and 35% of pediatric deaths during this period occurred either at home or on their way to the hospital.

Vaccination is your best preventive measure:  Most flu associated deaths occurred among children who were NOT vaccinated.

Some people are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu:  Older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), as well as those who live in facilities such as nursing homes, should be especially vigilant against the flu since they are at greater risk of complications.  However, it is interesting to note that the risk of influenza associated hospitalization in young children is similar to the risk known for older adults.  Something that many parents fail to realize.

In light of this report and other flu related data from last season, I’m relieved that my children have already been vaccinated.  When I schedule their appointments each year I’m reminded of the following:  

We know and love plenty of people whose health is fragile, such as newborn babies, pregnant women and those undergoing cancer treatment.  Last year my daughter’s 13-year-old friend, and trick-or-treat companion, was undergoing cancer treatment.  This year my father in law is battling cancer.  And we’ll be seeing several family members who are either pregnant or have young children over the upcoming holidays.  Then there’s my 90-year-old aunt.  She may not have any underlying health conditions, but a bout of the flu could certainly land her in the hospital.  By getting ourselves vaccinated we are also helping to protect other vulnerable members of our communities from falling ill with the flu. 

We’ve also witnessed the severity and unpredictability of the flu over the years.  My husband’s co-worker, a healthy young man in his early 30’s, succumbed to the flu years ago.  My own daughter was a victim of H1N1 during that pandemic year.  My best friend’s son was hospitalized two times with influenza.  And how could I forget the personal stories from Families Fighting Flu and Shot by Shot of children lost to influenza.  As parents, we vaccinate our children to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to protect them from a dangerous illness that could possibly result in death.

If you haven’t had your family vaccinated this year, there’s still time.  Simply use this flu vaccine finder to help locate a vaccine center near you.  http://flushot.healthmap.org

And if you’re already preparing to explain why you won’t get yourself or your family vaccinated, than I have just one request.  Check out Tara Haelle’s grand effort to “set the record straight” with her thorough take down of almost every flu vaccine myth ever heard.  As a science writer, Tara’s colossal post lists 25 flu vaccine myths and then literally attacks each of them in detail.  With a grand total of 109 links, more than half of which link directly to peer-reviewed studies in medical research, your bound to find the scientific response to anything you’ve ever wanted to know about influenza vaccine.

To find out more about why flu vaccination matters, listen to a few personal stories compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Friday Flu Shot: CDC Provides Influenza Update

January 11, 2013 4 comments

Influenza has hit the United States early this year.  I would be surprised if you’re not already aware of this, because there is so much discussion about it these days. With all the conversations there comes a variety of accurate and inaccurate information being spread.  People are making statements about the flu shot, vaccine effectiveness, possible side effects, what constitutes “the flu”, how serious the flu is (or is not), and how many people have died.  This morning, a flu related status update on our Vaccinate Your Baby Facebook page provided a perfect example of this. I read several statements that were completely untrue.  Some people even stated that their doctors were informing them that the flu vaccine was not a good match to the strains that are circulating.  That is just completely inaccurate.

However, as more than 100 comments continued to come in on that particular thread, I turned my attention to an important conference call initiated by the CDC.  This call was scheduled to provide media with an accurate update on this year’s influenza season and it was a wonderful opportunity for people to ask questions of Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Joseph Bresee, M.D., Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch, Influenza Division, CDC.

I’m sure we will be reading lots of coverage of this call over the next few days.  However, since I know our readers are interested in keeping up-to-date on immunization related news, below you will find a few of the most prevalent data points released by the CDC today.

Flu Activity: Read more…

Are You One in 111 Million?

December 5, 2011 16 comments

Today marks the start of National Influenza Vaccination Week and so I ask; are you one in 111 million?

If you’ve already received your influenza vaccination this season than, congratulations…you are!

According to today’s telebriefing on U.S. influenza activity and vaccination rates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that as many as 36% of the general public (which represents a total of 111 million) have been vaccinated against seasonal influenza in the U.S. as of the beginning of November.   These mid-fall statistics were compiled after phone surveys were conducted during the first two weeks of November, and while final results will not be available until the end of the season, all indications are pointing to a slight increase in this season’s flu vaccine uptake versus last year’s data.

According to the CDC’s estimates, influenza rates among the general public are up about 3.5% from this time last year.  What’s even more encouraging are that the statistics suggest greater vaccine coverage among certain high-risk populations including children, seniors and pregnant women. Read more…