News from the FDA/CDC

Early increase in flu activity shows no signs of slowing


An important measure of U.S. flu activity for the 2019-2020 season has already surpassed last season’s high, and more than half the states are experiencing high levels of activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Influenza-like illness activity level, week ending Dec. 21, 2019

Nationwide, visits for influenza-like illness represented 5.1% of all outpatient visits to health care providers for the week ending Dec. 21, up from 4.0% the week before and higher than at any point during the 2018-2019 season, the CDC influenza division reported Dec. 27.

The last time the outpatient visit rate was higher than that was in February of the 2017-2018 season, when it peaked at 7.5%. The peak month of flu activity occurs most often – about once every 3 years – in February, and the odds of a December peak are about one in five, the CDC has said.

Outpatient illness activity also increased at the state level during the week ending Dec. 21. There were 20 jurisdictions – 18 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico – at level 10 on the CDC’s 1-10 scale of activity, compared with 13 the previous week, and the number of jurisdictions in the “high” range (levels 8-10) jumped from 21 to 28, the CDC data show.

The influenza division estimated that there have been 4.6 million flu illnesses so far this season, nearly a million more than the total after last week, along with 39,000 hospitalizations. The overall hospitalization rate for the season is up to 6.6 per 100,000 population, which is about average at this point. The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza increased to 5.7%, which is below the epidemic threshold, the CDC said.

Three pediatric deaths related to influenza-like illness were reported during the week ending Dec. 21, two of which occurred in an earlier week. For the 2019-2020 season so far, a total of 22 pediatric deaths have been reported to the CDC.

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