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CDC: Influenza rates may have reached a peak, at least in the Southeast

ATLANTA — The worst of the flu season may be over, at least for those in the South. In a late morning press conference with reporters, Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said, "We are seeing a decrease in some regions."

However, there is still an uptick in flu incidence heading West, and there is no guarantee that this season has reached its peak, he cautioned. "Only the next week or two will show if we have in fact crossed the [peak]," Frieden said. "As we often say, the only thing that's predictable about the flu is that it's unpredictable."

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 4.3%, above the national baseline of 2.2%. 

"Most of the country has seen or is seeing a lot of flu. This may continue for the next few weeks," Frieden said. "It does appear that in parts of the South and Southeast it does look [as though] we're past the peak." A common progression pattern for the flu is for the incidence to begin an uptick across the South and Southeast and then head West, he added. 

The overall effectiveness of this year's triumvirate influenza vaccine is 62%, Frieden reported. "The flu vaccine is far from perfect, but it is still by far the best tool that we have to fight the flu," he said. 

Addressing reports on vaccine shortages, Frieden suggested that those who want to be vaccinated should still be able to locate the vaccine. "By this time of year, a lot of doctors' offices [are out]," Frieden said. "It may be that you have to call a lot of places before you go out, but it should be available for you."

There also have been spot shortages of the pediatric liquid formulation of Tamiflu, the CDC reported. 

According to data posted Friday online, influenza-associated hospitalizations are running at a rate of 13.3 per 100,000 population. The most affected group is over the age of 65 years. Among all hospitalizations, 86.2% were associated with influenza A and 13% with influenza B. Among hospitalizations with influenza A subtype information, 98.7% were attributed to H3, and 1.3% were attributed to 2009 H1N1. 

As of Jan. 11, 24 states and New York City were reporting high levels of influenza-like illness, 16 states were reporting moderate levels, five states were reporting low levels and five states reported minimal levels — including California, Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine and Montana.

"The bottom line: It's the flu season," Frieden said.


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