CDC Unsure if Widespread Flu Trend Will Rebound or Worsen

Influenza Illness Widespread in 47 States

Yahoo Contributor Network

Forty-seven of the 50 United States reported widespread influenza illness for the week ending Jan. 5. Twenty-four states and New York City reported high influenza-like illnesses , ILI, in the same time period. That contrasts with reports from the previous week of 29 states and New York City experiencing high flu activity.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention added a caveat to this week's weekly flu report, noting that due to the end-of-year holidays and increased influenza activity, some sites used to compile the state and national data may have been slow to report, meaning exact statistics are subject to change.

Mortality Rates for Pneumonia and Influenza Slightly over Epidemic Threshold

In the CDC's weekly flu report issued Friday, the agency noted that the number of deaths associated with pneumonia and influenza comprised 7.3 percent of all deaths in that period, an amount slightly over the epidemic threshold. Pediatric deaths have totaled 20 as of Jan. 5, with slightly more males than females comprising that total.

Hospitalization Rates for Influenza

The CDC reported that the total number of hospitalizations due to positive laboratory specimens of the flu has numbered 3,710 since Oct. 1, representing a rate of 13.3 per 100,000 people being hospitalized with ILI. Forty-six percent of those who have been hospitalized with ILI have been people age 65 years and older.

Influenza Vaccination Effectiveness Explained

The effectiveness of each flu season's influenza vaccine varies depending on several factors including whether the influenza strains protected against by the vaccine are the actual strains active during that particular flu season, explained the CDC. The vaccine in use for the 2012-13 flu season has been estimated to be 62 percent effective in preventing influenza in those who received the vaccine.

Other factors that impact the effectiveness of the vaccination include age, overall health of the individual, immune system function, use of prescribed steroid medications when exposed to an influenza virus and more.

The implication is that even those who have been vaccinated against this flu season's viruses need to take precautions to guard against the illness. The CDC explains that those who become ill who have been vaccinated are less likely to develop as severe an illness as they would have without the flu vaccine, less likely to develop health complications from the flu.

Bottom Line

The CDC continues to advocate receiving the flu vaccine if you haven't already done so. Remember that it will take two weeks after receiving the vaccine for your body to develop a resistance to the influenza viruses.

If you experience influenza-like symptoms, consult your health care provider who can prescribe influenza antiviral medication even without a positive lab test for the flu.

Individuals at high risk for health complications from influenza, such as those age 65 years and older and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart or kidney disease may wish to avoid places where there are crowds because influenza spreads through respiratory secretions. Frequent hand-washing is advised.

Smack dab in the middle of the baby boomer generation, L.L. Woodard is a proud resident of "The Red Man" state. With what he hopes is an everyman's view of life's concerns both in his state and throughout the nation, Woodard presents facts and opinions based on common-sense solutions.

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