January 1, 2019 (MassLive)
It may be another difficult influenza season for the United States based on deaths and influenza-related hospitalization rates so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Although the CDC has claimed that is it too early to adequately assess the severity of the current influenza season, it did recently note that A (H1N1)pdm09 viruses have been the most predominate nationally thus far. A(H1N1)pdm09, also referred to as “swine” virus, has been associated with significant and severe illness in young children since its emergence back in 2009 when it caused a global outbreak.
On December 21, the CDC reported that most of the influenza activity has been caused by young school children – hospitalization rates in children younger than 5 years old are currently the highest out of all age groups.
Higher-than-standard levels of outpatient visits for influenza-related illnesses were reported by nine of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Four pediatric deaths have also been reported, which bring this influenza season’s total deaths to 11 people.
Currently in Massachusetts, influenza is widespread but low in severity – outpatient visits for influenza-like symptoms are on the rise. In the week ending December 21, influenza activity levels were the highest in the Northeast and Southeast regions of the state. To compare to last year’s flu season in Massachusetts, there were 731 laboratory-confirmed cases of the influenza with 540 of those being influenza A. This season so far, there are 1,322 laboratory -confirmed cases of influenza, with 1,215 of these being influenza A.
Outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increased to 3.3 percent nationally for the week ending December 22, which according to the CDC is above the 2.2 percent national baseline.
The CDC reports that for the last five influenza seasons, the average influenza season is 16 weeks long. Influenza seasons range from 11 to 20 weeks based on the last five seasons.
The CDC continues to remind and recommend influenza vaccinations to anyone who has not received one this season. The time to get vaccinated is now.