The latest influenza epidemic report, for week three of 2013, has just been released by the Centers for Disease Control. During the week that ended Jan. 19, deaths due to pneumonia and influenza soared, reaching 9.8 percent of all deaths in the cities reporting. This exceeds the epidemic level for the week of 7.3 percent. An additional eight pediatric flu deaths were reported for the week, bringing the total since Oct. 1 to 37.
The rate of emergency department visits for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) continued to decline nationally but more slowly in week 3. Last week, 4.6 percent of all emergency department visits were for an ILI. This week, the rate is 4.3 percent.
ILI activity on the West Coast, especially in the nation's most populous state, California, has reached high levels. In the east, Pennsylvania and New Jersey are both experiencing the highest levels of ILI. New Jersey is seeing illnesses due to respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) at levels approaching those for influenza. New York reports that 5,348 patients have been hospitalized for influenza and influenza complications since the flu season began on Oct. 1.
Not all states have updated their influenza data on their health department websites. Of those that have, Vermont reports an ILI rate of 18 percent, Connecticut a rate of 12.4 percent, New Jersey a rate of 9.43 percent and Alabama is reporting 7.5 percent for ILI visits.
The CDC has this to say about the latest influenza data:
While activity indicators that rose early -- like influenza-like-illness and the percent of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza -- are beginning to show declines, indicators that reflect severity are now rising. It’s typical for severity indicators to lag a few weeks behind early activity indicators.