Influenza activity above national baseline, CDC reports
ATLANTA Influenza activity remained above the national baseline for the week ended May 9, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data released Friday, indicating that there are higher levels of influenza-like illness than is normal for this time of year.
As of May 18, there were 5,123 confirmed infections with novel influenza A (H1N1) virus. But that’s not the only influenza virus out there currently, the CDC noted. Illness rates are particularly prevalent in the Pacific Nortwest and in the Southwest, the CDC noted. During week 18, seasonal influenza A (H1), A (H3), and B viruses continued to co-circulate with novel influenza A (H1N1). Only about half of all influenza viruses being detected are novel H1N1 viruses.
There are more than 200 hospitalizations associated with H1N1 so far. The majority of those hospitalizations are occurring in a younger, healthier population — primarily ranging in patients between 5 and 24. Unlike the typical seasonal flu virus, hospitalizations among patients over the age of 65 is relatively rare.
The spike in illness rates may be more a result of more testing than an actual increase in influenza-like illnesses typical for this late in the season.
“I can with great certainty say that that is a reflection of the amount of testing that’s going on,” noted Dan Jernigan, CDC’s deputy influenza director, during a conference call with reporters Friday. “That significant increase is a reflection of this profound amount of testing that has gone on in the last few weeks. … What that means is that there is, even at this end of the usual season, the regular season, a fair amount of regular viruses that are circulating in addition to these from [H1N1].”
Based on activity so far, the novel H1N1 virus could impact as many as 100,000 people.
“If we had to make an estimate, I would say that the amount of activity we’re seeing with our influenza-like illness network is probably upwards of maybe 100,000, but that’s something we will have a much better estimate of once we get the information back from the field teams that are collecting that data,” Jernigan suggested.
The CDC also increased its death toll associated with the H1N1 virus on Monday — there are now six deaths associated with the novel virus, with the most recent a school official from New York City. Currently, there are 22 U.S. states that are reporting widespread or regional influenza activity. So far, there are 173 hospitalizations that have been reported to CDC attributed to the H1N1 virus.
“The H1N1 virus is not going away,” Jernigan said. “We know that the outbreak is not localized but is spreading and appears to be expanding throughout the United States.”
Obama names NYC health commissioner new CDC director
ATLANTA President Barack Obama has chosen a new director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
New York City health commissioner Thomas R. Frieden, an infectious disease specialist, is expected to take office next month, according to reports.
Pres. Obama has eyed to shift Frieden to the post for quite some time, reports said Friday. The health official led such crusades as banning smoking in restaurants and bars, and made the city the country’s first to ban the use of trans fats, which clog arteries and raise the risk of heart disease, from food prepared in restaurants, Reuters reported.
Three N.Y. schools close for H1N1 outbreak, assistant principal in critical condition
NEW YORK Just when it seemed fear of the H1N1 influenza outbreak had subsided, three New York City schools closed Friday, with one school official in critical condition.
Education Department spokeswoman Margie Feinberg said maintenance crews were thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting two middle schools and one elementary school in Queens County where hundreds of students were sent home sick this week, the Associated Press said.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the school closures Thursday evening, saying four students and the assistant principal at the Susan B. Anthony middle school in Hollis have documented cases of swine flu. The assistant principal is said to be on a ventilator and in critical condition.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported over 4,700 cases of H1N1 across 47 states, including four deaths.