Flu activity still high at the end of January

A weekly report on influenza (flu) activity showed that the illness was still very active and proving dangerous to vulnerable populations.

As of the week ending Jan. 25, 2014, 37 child deaths caused by influenza had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the 2013–2014 flu season, with nine of the deaths occurring in that last week alone.

Texas has reported the highest number of child deaths so far, with a total of nine. Four children have died in Tennessee and three each in both Florida and California.

States are not required to report flu-related deaths of people 18 years or older to CDC.

The proportion of all deaths attributed to the flu (and pneumonia, a common complication of flu) during the week of Jan. 19 through Jan. 25, 2014, was high enough to be considered epidemic.

Between Oct. 1, 2013, and Jan. 25, 2014, a total of 5,494 people were hospitalized with the flu, as confirmed through laboratory tests, CDC reported. People ages 18 to 64 accounted for more than 60 percent of reported hospitalizations, and nearly all were sick with the influenza A virus. The influenza B virus was confirmed in less than 1 percent of hospitalizations.

Many of the people hospitalized for flu had underlying medical conditions that may have worsened flu symptoms. For example, about 25 percent of hospitalized adults had asthma and nearly 30 percent had some type of cardiovascular disease. Only 14 percent of hospitalized adults had no known condition other than the flu.

About 44 percent of children hospitalized with the flu had no other known condition.

The number of people reported to visit doctor’s offices and other outpatient facilities for influenzalike illness (ILI) was higher than the standard national baseline during the week ending Jan. 25. It was also higher than reported at this time in prior flu seasons from 2002 to 2012. Only the 2012–2013 season had more outpatient visits reported at this time.

ILI is defined as a fever of 100 degrees or higher and a cough or sore throat or both.

CDC urges that anyone who hasn’t been vaccinated against the flu this season be vaccinated now, especially since the vaccine is designed to protect against the viruses proving to be most prevalent this season.

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