Sunday, January 4, 2015

Influenza now at epidemic levels

At the close of the year, the CDC reported that deaths due to influenza and pneumonia have reached epidemic levels in the U.S.  837 flu and pneumonia deaths were reported in the 2nd to last week of the year, or 6.8% - the epidemic threshold - of total deaths reported that week.  The states most heavily hit by the epidemic include Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin, which collectively reported 151 deaths.  However, flu activity is widespread across the nation, with 36 states reporting high flu activity levels.

Luckily, in California, flu activity has only been reported as "sporadic", though 28 deaths were reported in Los Angeles alone.  Meanwhile, in San Francisco, 8 deaths were reported.  Like most flu seasons, the highest risk group are seniors and children under the age of 5, which saw hospitalization rates of 38.3 and 13.4 per 100,000, respectively, compared to the average of 9.7 per 100,000 Americans.  Most of these hospitalizations (~95%) are due to an H3N2 strain (A/Switzerland/9715293/2013) of influenza that is currently not protected against by this year's flu vaccination.  Still, those infected can be treated with antivirals such as Tamiflu and Relenza to decrease the severity of their illness.


--Andrew Duong

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