Flu Season Tracking Just Below Epidemic Level

The number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for this year’s flu season are accelerating but remain just below the official level to be declared an epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Surveillance report for the week ending December 15 found the early season percentage healthcare patient visits associated of influenza-like-illnesses (flu) and pneumonia, often associated with flu, rose to 6 percent. Although below the 6.7 percent level to be declared an epidemic, all 50 states are reporting outbreaks and the flu season tends to not peak until March. 

The weekly flu death toll hit 38, up from 32 the prior week. The weekly death toll from pneumonia that is often associated with flu hit 2,083, down from 2,532 the prior week. Weekly pediatric flu deaths for children 0-4 years was 6, compared to zero last year.

Medical experts are on heightened vigilance following a September analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and pneumonia complications during the 2017-18 season. That was substantially above the range of 12,000 to 56,000 annual deaths in the last 40 years. 

Last year the deadly influenza A(H3N2) strain of the virus predominated in clinical test results for hospital patient admissions. The traditionally less virulent influenza A(H1N1) strain has been dominant this year, but the A(H3N2) continues to circulate nationally.

None of the flu viruses tested this year were found to be resistant to oseltamivir, zanamivir, or peramivir vaccinations. But in a disturbing trend, CDC found that 60 percent of the 185 pediatric deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season involved children that had already received a flu vaccination.

A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that the effectiveness of “inactivated influenza vaccine” wanes during the course of a single flu season. The Comparing persons vaccinated 14 to 41 days prior to being tested for influenza versus persons vaccinated 42 to 69 days prior to being tested. The persons vaccinated 42 to 69 days before testing had a 32 percent higher risk of being tested positive for the flu.

The hardest hit state during the 2018-2019 has been California, where the state Department of Health reported that there was an above average outbreak of flu in 53 of its 58 counties for the week ending December 9. California reported 983 deaths and the number of 2018-2019 early season flu cases is above the 2017-2018 pace that became a brutal epidemic. 

The number of cases, hospitalizations, and deaths for this year’s flu season are accelerating but remain just below the official level to be declared an epidemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Influenza Surveillance report for the week ending December 15 found the early season percentage healthcare patient visits associated of influenza-like-illnesses (flu) and pneumonia, often associated with flu, rose to 6 percent. Although below the 6.7 percent level to be declared an epidemic, all 50 states are reporting outbreaks and the flu season tends to not peak until March. 

The weekly flu death toll hit 38, up from 32 the prior week. The weekly death toll from pneumonia that is often associated with flu hit 2,083, down from 2,532 the prior week. Weekly pediatric flu deaths for children 0-4 years was 6, compared to zero last year.

Medical experts are on heightened vigilance following a September analysis from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that an estimated 80,000 Americans died of flu and pneumonia complications during the 2017-18 season. That was substantially above the range of 12,000 to 56,000 annual deaths in the last 40 years. 

Last year the deadly influenza A(H3N2) strain of the virus predominated in clinical test results for hospital patient admissions. The traditionally less virulent influenza A(H1N1) strain has been dominant this year, but the A(H3N2) continues to circulate nationally.

None of the flu viruses tested this year were found to be resistant to oseltamivir, zanamivir, or peramivir vaccinations. But in a disturbing trend, CDC found that 60 percent of the 185 pediatric deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season involved children that had already received a flu vaccination.

A recent study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases found that the effectiveness of “inactivated influenza vaccine” wanes during the course of a single flu season. The Comparing persons vaccinated 14 to 41 days prior to being tested for influenza versus persons vaccinated 42 to 69 days prior to being tested. The persons vaccinated 42 to 69 days before testing had a 32 percent higher risk of being tested positive for the flu.

The hardest hit state during the 2018-2019 has been California, where the state Department of Health reported that there was an above average outbreak of flu in 53 of its 58 counties for the week ending December 9. California reported 983 deaths and the number of 2018-2019 early season flu cases is above the 2017-2018 pace that became a brutal epidemic.