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Record-Breaking Influenza Activity Shows No Signs of Abating

An unusually high rate of hospitalizations of nonelderly adults seen with widespread influenza activity.
Published Online: Feb 12,2018
Kristen Coppock, MA, Editor
Influenza activity is breaking recent records this season, and is not yet slowing down, according to the CDC. An unusually high rate of hospitalizations of nonelderly adults is among the contributing factors.

During a press briefing today, CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, MD, RADM, USPHS, said 48 states are currently experiencing widespread influenza activity with Oregon and Hawaii indicating regional flu activity. Typically, widespread flu activity affects regions across the country at different times, she noted. At this point in the flu season, she said, the United States is at the level of the highest peak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, and is rapidly approaching the final rate of the highly-active 2014-2015 season.

“So many states have high activity at the same time,” Schuchat said, during the briefing. “We can’t predict how much longer the flu activity will persist. Influenza activity is still on the rise.”

Influenza A (H3) has been the most frequently-identified influenza virus subtype this season, according to the CDC. The strain is attributed to 86.4% of influenza hospitalizations from October 1, 2017 to February 3.1

Overall this season, there have been 59.9 laboratory-confirmed hospitalizations associated with influenza per 100,000 people. The highest rate of hospitalization has been among adults aged 65 and older (263.6 per 100,000 population), followed by adults aged 50-64 (63.1 per 100,000 population) and children aged 4 and under (40 per 100,000 population).1

In its briefing, the CDC also reported 10 new pediatric deaths attributed to influenza viruses, bringing the total reported to 63 this season. Schuchat urged people to stay home from school and work, if affected with influenza. “What could be mild symptoms for you, could be deadly to someone else,” she said, during the briefing.

Officials with the CDC continue to recommend influenza vaccinations, as well as pneumococcal vaccines for patients aged 65 and older. Schuchat said it isn’t too late to be vaccinated against influenza, and even those patients who have been infected with influenza A this season could benefit from immunization, since people can get sick more than once. “It makes sense to get vaccinated because it can protect you against the other strain,” Schuchat said. “It is not uncommon for B strains to increase late in the season.”

According to CDC experts, antiviral drugs are most effective when taken within the first 48 hours of symptoms being shown. Patients are being urged to call around for antiviral medications if a pharmacy does not have them in stock, and clinicians should immediately administer treatment to patients showing signs of influenza. “Don’t wait on test results. If it looks like flu, treat it,” said Schuchat. “There is a lot of flu out there now. If it looks like flu, it probably is. We just have to keep being vigilant.”

Reference

1. CDC. 2017-2018 Influenza Season Week. Flu View. www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm. Accessed February 9, 2018.