Home » Most of U.S. experiencing high levels of flu-like illness; flu activity widespread in Ky.

Most of U.S. experiencing high levels of flu-like illness; flu activity widespread in Ky.

Information from Centers for Disease Control

WASHINGTON (Jan. 14, 2013) — The United States is having an early flu season with most of the country now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness (ILI).

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In this week’s FluView report by the Centers for Disease Control, some key flu activity indicators continued to rise, while others fell. It’s too soon to say exactly what this means; but some regions may have peaked, while other parts of the country are still on the upswing. This FluView update contains data for the week between Dec. 30 and Jan. 5.

Widespread influenza activity was reported by Kentucky and 47 other states. This is an increase from 41 states in the previous week. The data is based on assessments made by each state health department and show how many areas within a state or territory are seeing flu activity. The assessments made by each state health department are based on the detection of outbreaks of flu, increases in the percent of people visiting the doctor with flu-like symptoms, and patients with laboratory-confirmed influenza.

Twenty-four states and New York City are reporting high ILI activity. The previous week, 29 states reported high ILI activity. Kentucky is not among those states. Additionally, 16 are reporting moderate levels of ILI activity, an increase from 9 states in the prior week.

Of 12,876 specimens tested and reported by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories, 4,222 specimens (32.8 percent) were positive for influenza. (For the previous week, Dec. 23-29, CDC reported 31.6 percent positive.)

Two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. One was associated with an influenza A (H3) virus and one was associated with an influenza A virus, for which the subtype was not determined. This brings the total number of influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported to CDC for 2012-2013 to 20.

The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 4.3 percent; above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. Nine of 10 regions reported ILI above region-specific baseline levels. Twenty-four states and New York City experienced high ILI activity; 16 states experienced moderate ILI activity; five states experienced low ILI activity; five states experienced minimal ILI activity.

More than 200,000 people are hospitalized each year from complications the flu and an average of 23,000 die annually, according to the CDC. Signs and symptoms of flu are fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children).

Complications of the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, diabetes and asthma.

The flu virus is spread by people who are ill through airborne droplets emitted by coughing and sneezing. It can be contracted by touching objects contaminated with the flu virus.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick, the CDC says. While it is a serious viral disease, it is also a preventable one. The best method of prevention is to receive your influenza vaccination every year.

Other FluView highlights:

♦ Since Oct. 1, 3,710 laboratory-confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations have been reported; an increase of 1,443 hospitalizations from the previous week. This translates to a rate of 13.3 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S.

♦ Influenza-associated hospitalizations are highest among people 65 and older. Of the 3,710 influenza-associated hospitalizations that have been reported this season, 46 percent have been among people 65 and older.

♦ Influenza A (H3N2), 2009 influenza A (H1N1), and influenza B viruses have all been identified in the U.S. this season. During the week ending Jan. 5, 3,369 of the 4,222 flu positive tests reported to CDC were influenza A and 853 were influenza B viruses. Of the 1,586 influenza A viruses that were subtyped, 98 percent were H3 viruses and 2 percent were 2009 H1N1 viruses.

♦ Since Oct. 1, CDC has antigenically characterized 521 influenza viruses, including 17 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses, 327 influenza A (H3N2) viruses and 177 influenza B viruses.

Flu prevention

handwashing♦ Wash your hands often with soap and water for 15-20 seconds or by using alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.

♦ Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches an object that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

♦ Get an annual flu shot to help the human body develop antibodies to protect against influenza infection.

♦ Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from contracting your illness.

♦ Stay home from work, school, and errands if possible when you are sick. This will help prevent others from catching your illness.

♦ Remind children to also practice healthy habits because germs spread easily at school and in child care settings, resulting in high rates of absenteeism among students and staff in our state’s schools.