Flu Season Worsens Early, More Deaths Reported

Troy Brown, RN

December 24, 2019

Influenza has spread across the entire United States during the week ending December 14 (week 50), worsening several weeks earlier than last year, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

This season, at least 3.7 million influenza cases, 32,000 hospitalizations, and 1800 deaths have occurred from influenza.

Pediatric deaths are also up from last year: The CDC received reports during week 50 of nine pediatric deaths that occurred during the weeks ending November 2 and December 14 of this year; that brings the total to 19 this season. Last flu season, one child died during week 50 for a total of seven deaths by the end of that week.

Another significant difference from last year is the national emergence of influenza B/Victoria as the predominant virus this early; last flu season at this point, all viruses cocirculated but B/Victoria did not predominate until much later.

"A(H1N1) viruses are the next most common and are increasing in proportion relative to other influenza viruses in some regions," the CDC explains in its report.

Two child deaths were linked to influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus infection and seven were associated with influenza B viruses. Lineage determination for two of the influenza B viruses found that both were B/Victoria viruses.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 3.9%, and has now been above the baseline of 2.4% for 6 weeks.

High levels of influenza-like illness have been reported in Puerto Rico, New York City, and 19 states (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington).

Activity has been moderate in the District of Columbia and six states (Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, North Carolina, and North Dakota), and low in 10 states (California, Hawaii, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Pennsylvania, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).

Geographically, influenza-like illness was widespread in Puerto Rico and 30 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Washington).

Activity was regional in 17 states (Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming).

Virtually all (> 99%) viruses that have undergone testing have shown susceptibility to the four influenza antiviral drugs that the US Food and Drug Administration recommends for this season.

The CDC says there is still time to get vaccinated and urges everyone to do so.

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