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Posts Tagged ‘flu activity’

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…

Timely Flu News and Updates on Pediatric Deaths

February 7, 2014 1 comment

Over the last two decades, Every Child By Two has worked with partners at the grassroots and national levels to develop initiatives that help educate the public, healthcare workers and lawmakers about the importance and safety of immunizations.  As part of this mission, they continue their efforts to inform the public about the universal recommendations for influenza vaccination and the details of the current influenza season.

In a critical update from the CDC this week, Every Child By Two discovered that there have been 9 new pediatric deaths from influenza in the week ending in January 25th.

With a total of 37 pediatric deaths so far for the 2013-2014 flu season, the biggest tragedy is that 23 of the 37 children who died had a known vaccination status and they were eligible for vaccination; however, only 2 of the 23 children were fully vaccinated.

Furthermore, 6 of children who died were in the 0-5 month age group and ineligible for vaccination based on their age.  Ten of the children were between 6 and 23 months; five children were between 2 and 4 years old; ten children were between 5 and 11 years old; and six children were between 12 and 17 years old.

But no matter what the age or vaccination status, a pediatric flu death is a tragedy, especially if it could have been prevented with a simple vaccination.  

Read more…

2014 Flu Activity: Surprising or Not?

January 8, 2014 4 comments

After the past few weeks of holiday get-togethers and extended traveling, it’s no surprise that the flu has arrived in the U.S. with a vengeance.  Colorado, like many other states, is reporting an alarming increase in influenza infections with 448 flu-associated hospitalizations so far this year. In New York state, reports indicate that flu cases are up 119%, with a 126% surge in flu related hospitalizations.  Similar news reports can be seen all across the country, with as many as 25 states reporting high flu activity.

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As concerning as this is, it’s not all that surprising.  It is January after all.  And flu activity typically peaks in January or later.

But there have been a few surprises we’ve seen so far this season. 

First, a Texas health care system recently reported eight flu-related deaths in its Travis County hospitals during December.  The H1N1 strain appears to be the most prevalent strain there.  But that was not the surprise.  The surprise was seeing which patients the strain was impacting the most.  While the flu is typically most dangerous for people over 65 and kids under five, doctors in Travis County indicated that the early strain of H1N1 hitting so far this season was targeting a different age range.

 “Some of the sickest people we’re seeing with the flu are young and healthy people, 40- to 50-year-old people,” said Ross Tobleman, M.D., the medical director at the emergency department at Scott & White in Round Rock.  “For whatever reason, they just get really, really sick with this strain of the flu.”

Although flu vaccination rates have continued to climb in recent years, with last year’s flu vaccine uptake at about 56.6% for children through age 17 and 41.5% for adults, we don’t have enough data this season to determine which strain will be the most prevalent or dangerous, and which age group will suffer the most.

But there is one thing for sure.  There will be children who will die from the flu again this year.

So far there have been a total of six influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported for the 2013-2014 season.   And the death of a vaccinated 5-year-old boy, named Ronan, provided yet another surprise to some. Read more…

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…