HEALTH

This year’s flu season officially worst since 2009

BY Michael Johnsen

It’s official. There is more flu-related illness impacting the U.S. today than there has been since the 2009/2010 season, when a summertime H1N1 epidemic was playing out across the country.

Nationwide for the week ended Jan. 13, 6.3% of patient visits reported through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to influenza-like illness. That’s well above the 6% peak of the 2014/2015 season.

“With much of the country experiencing widespread and intense flu activity, many of you may be have been directly impacted by this. You may have been sick with the flu yourself or caring for loved ones who are sick. I also know that many of you may have received the flu vaccine this season, but you got sick anyway,” CDC director Brenda Fitzgerald told reporters last week (and before flu activity reached new heights). “So far this season, influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common form of influenza. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older. When H3 viruses are predominant, we tend to have a worse flu season with more hospitalizations and more deaths.”

So far, a total of 8,990 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between Oct. 1, 2017 and Jan. 13, 2018. The overall hospitalization rate was 31.5 per 100,000 population. The highest rate of hospitalization was among seniors (136.5 per 100,000 population), followed by adults aged 50-64 (33.2 per 100,000 population) and children aged 0-4 years (22.8 per 100,000 population).

“While our surveillance systems show that nationally the flu season may be peaking now, we know from past experience that it will take many more weeks for flu activity to truly slow down,” Fitzergald said.

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