February 9, 2013
CDC Officials Say Worst May Be Over This Flu Season
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
While influenza activity throughout the US remains elevated, the number of states reporting widespread illness resulting from the virus decreased last week, prompting federal health officials to suggest that the worst might be over for this flu season, various media outlets reported Friday.
According to Associated Press (AP) Medical Writer Mike Stobbe, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported decreases in flu-related activity for most of the US over each of the last four weeks. Additionally, over the last two weeks, deaths related to influenza and/or pneumonia have also dropped, Stobbe said.
"It's likely that the worst of the current flu season is over," CDC representative Tom Skinner told the AP.
HealthDay Reporter Steven Reinberg said that this week´s CDC statistics have reported high levels of flu activity in 19 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Wyoming).
Moderate activity was reported in 12 states (Alabama, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, West Virginia and Wisconsin) while 13 states (Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee and Washington) reported low activity levels.
Florida, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, and South Carolina experienced minimal influenza-related activity this past week, according to Reinberg. More than half of all flu-related hospitalizations involved adults at least 65 years of age, and 14 children died as a result of the illness, raising the 2013 flu season death toll to 59, he added, citing CDC statistics.
“In early December, CDC officials announced flu season had arrived, a month earlier than usual. They were worried, saying it had been nine years since a winter flu season started like this one. That was 2003-04 – one of the deadliest seasons in the past 35 years, with more than 48,000 deaths,” Stobbe said. “Like this year, the major flu strain was one that tends to make people sicker, especially the elderly, who are most vulnerable to flu and its complications.”
“But back then, that year's flu vaccine wasn't made to protect against that bug, and fewer people got flu shots. The vaccine is reformulated almost every year, and the CDC has said this year's vaccine is a good match to the types that are circulating. A preliminary CDC study showed it is about 60 percent effective, which is close to the average,” he added. “So far, the season has been labeled moderately severe.”