Flu Season 2014 Update: Have You Gotten Sick Yet?

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How severe is the flu outbreak where you are? Flu-related deaths are above the epidemic threshold again; see your doctor if you need to. Image courtesy of the U.S. CDC

How severe is the flu outbreak where you are? Flu-related deaths are above the epidemic threshold again; see your doctor if you need to. Image courtesy of the U.S. CDC.

Flu season continues, and the data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) keeps coming in! So what was the flu like during the week of January 26th through February 1, 2014? Let’s  take a look and find out!

FluView

The CDC complies influenza data into a program called the FluView and reports the complied date once a week. During this, the fifth week of the year, influenza activity has remained high for much of the nation.

The U.S. World Health Organization and the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System tested over 8,000 specimens this week, and out of those, 1,626 (19.6%, to be exact)  were positive for influenza.

Of the specimens that tested positive for the flu, 92.9 percent were influenza A, while influenza B only accounted for 7.1 percent of the cases.

They isolated subtypes in 56% of the Influenza A cases – the vast majority of which were the 2009 H1N1 – all but two percent of cases were attributed to the swine flu. Clearly, the 2009 H1N1 virus is making its rounds this flu season.

Flu Deaths: Epidemic Levels

The seasonal flu can be serious and cause deaths, and H1N1 – as you may recall from 2009 – is not a weak virus. During this fifth week, there were three more pediatric deaths, making a total of 40 pediatric deaths during the 2013-2014 flu season.

Influenza can also lead to pneumonia, which can be deadly. During this fifth week, 8.6 deaths were due to pneumonia and flu, which puts this over the epidemic threshold of 7.3 percent.

The rate of hospitalizations for the 2013-2014 flu season is 22.5 per 100,000 population. The highest rate for hospitalization remains within people 65 years and older followed by 50-64 years old, and 0-4 years old.

Influenza-Like-Illness?

How many people are seeing their doctor for influenza-like-illnesses, which is defined as having a temperature over 100 degrees and a cough/or sore throat? For this week, 3.2 percent of patient visits, as reported though the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were for influenza-like-illnesses. The baseline for influenza-like-illnesses is two percent, so that’s over the normal amount.

Where are doctors receiving reports of flu-like illness? Image courtesy of the U.S. CDC

Where are doctors receiving reports of flu-like illness? Image courtesy of the U.S. CDC.

How Many People Have the Flu?

The CDC calls the reports of positive influenza tests to state epidemiologist the ‘geographic spread.’ The geographic spread for influenza is widespread in 29 states. 19 states have reported regional activity, the District of Columbia and one state reported localized flu activity, and Guam, Puerto Rico, and one state reported sporadic activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands reported no activity.

During weeks of little to no flu virus circulation, the CDC compares the outpatient visits for influenza-like-activity levels with the average percentage of influenza-like-illnesses visits. This activity level ranges from minimal to high. According to the CDC, seven states (Alabama, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia) are experiencing high influenza-like-illness activity. Twelve states are reporting moderate activity, 14 states and New York City are reporting low activity, and seventeen states are reporting minimal activity.

Don’t Panic

Remember – these numbers may not give a clear picture of how many people are actually sick with the flu. The CDC gets their numbers from healthcare facilities, and if you don’t go to the doctor when you are sick, the doctor cannot report it to the CDC. This means that all the people who don’t get to the doctor, and treat their flu symptoms at home will not show up in the official reports.

While we head into the last month of the flu’s peak time (January and February) we should start to see the number of cases decline. However, flu cases can occur year round, although they’re not as common as during the fall and winter. If you are sick, stay home and do your best to keep away from others to prevent spreading the virus. Stay healthy everyone!

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