June 22, 2005
Late Peak May Have Prevented Severe Flu Season from Becoming Worse
The 2004-2005 flu season was at least as severe as the 2003-2004 season, but peaked later according to data from Solucient, a leading provider of healthcare information. This later peak may have prevented the most recent flu season from being even worse.
A flu season's severity is reflected in hospital admissions for community-acquired pneumonia (CAP), one of the most common complications of the flu. Solucient analyzed CAP discharge data from October 2002 through March 2005. The data was provided by ACTrackerÃ¢“¢, an online tool that provides national estimates of hospital and drug utilization approximately 45 days after the end of each month, making the estimates the most timely and current of their kind.In the 2004-2005 flu season, daily CAP discharges peaked at an average of about 7,000 and 8,000, respectively, in January/February 2005 compared to the previous flu season's December 2003/January 2004 peak. Both these seasons had approximately 31 percent more hospital discharges than the 2002-2003 flu season.
Due to an unusual shortage of flu vaccine, the later peak of the 2004-2005 flu season may have been beneficial, allowing public health officials more time to reallocate and administer the limited supply of vaccine to those most in need - the elderly and children. This extra time could have been responsible for preventing many more people from becoming ill than would have been expected under the circumstances if the flu peaked at the same time it did the year before.
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