“The bottom line -- it's flu season. Most of the country is seeing or has seen a lot of flu and this may continue for a number of weeks.” This is the opening statement, or warning given by CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden during a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Flu Update Jan. 11. (Click here for Audio).
Frieden says influenza activity remains elevated throughout most of the country. We may see declines in flu activity in some areas due to the virus already peaking in some areas. He says, “Influenza activity ebbs and flows during flu season and tends to spread across the country.”
Twenty-four states and New York City are now reporting a high level of influenza-like illness (ILI) activity. This is down from 29 states and NYC just a week ago.
Sixteen states are reporting moderate levels of ILI.
Forty-seven states report widespread geographic influenza activity, that's up from 41 last week.
As far as influenza related fatalities, Dr. Frieden said there were two additional pediatric deaths reported during the past week. This brings the total pediatric deaths to 20 nationwide this season.
In terms of pneumonia and influenza mortality, the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza rose to slightly above the threshold for the first time this season, according to Frieden. He said this is not surprising since there is a lag time between when illnesses start to rise and deaths start to rise.
He then went on to discuss the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine. Based on early data and estimates available, Frieden said the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine has shown to have an overall vaccine effectiveness of 62 percent.
Basically, that says that if you've gotten the flu vaccine, you're 62 percent less likely to need to go to your doctor to get treated for flu, explains Dr. Joe Bresee, Medical Epidemiologist with the Influenza branch of the CDC.
He does qualify this number by saying, “So what we have known for a long time is that the flu vaccine is far from perfect. But it's still by far the best tool we have to prevent the flu.”
About 90 percent of all of the strains circulating are included in the vaccine. The other 10 percent are a second influenza B.
Frieden reminds the public that if you haven't been vaccinated and want to be, better late than never. However, there are reported shortages of the vaccine, so call ahead.
Read more about the 2012-2013 Influenza Vaccine
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