Flu Season Ramping Up

Flu rates in US tracked by CDC and influenza vaccines still encouraged

(RxWiki News) Flu season is in full swing, and researchers across the country are keeping tabs on the virus' spread.

A new report recently updated the progress of this year's influenza season.

The report found that incidences of flu have increased across the nation as the season has continued, and the researchers noted that it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.

"Talk to your doctor about a flu vaccine."

This report, executed by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, led by Lynnette Brammer, MPH, presented a snapshot of the current influenza situation in the US.

The flu season, which typically starts in the fall and continues on during winter and spring, often peaks in January or later, reported CDC, so it is expected that instances of the virus will continue to rise.

This new report looked at influenza activity in the US from September 29 to December 7, 2013, as reported to World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System collaborating laboratories.

During this time, 140 of these labs across the country tested 61,261 samples for the flu.

Of these tests, 4,183 (6.8 percent) tested positive for influenza. Of the positive tests, 3,819 (91.3 percent) were strains of influenza A and 364 (8.7 percent) were strains of influenza B.

During September 29 to December 7, 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico all reported influenza-positive tests.

So far during the 2013-14 flu season, the CDC has identified 221 different influenza viruses.

These flu infections have proved serious in some cases. From October 1 through December 7, 531 confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations were reported — accounting for a rate of two hospitalizations per 100,000 Americans.

"Vaccination remains the most effective method to prevent influenza and its complications," the report noted. "Health-care providers should offer vaccine to all unvaccinated persons aged [older than] 6 months now and throughout the influenza season."

The authors of this report also noted that antiviral medications can help treat the flu and reduce serious medical outcomes from the virus. However, these influenza antiviral medications are most effective when started early in those with likely or confirmed flu, the researchers wrote.

Beyond getting a vaccine, CDC recommends a number of other steps to help prevent influenza's spread, including staying away from sick people and staying home when sick yourself.

"Linens, eating utensils, and dishes belonging to those who are sick should not be shared without washing thoroughly first," CDC recommended. "Further, frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone is ill."

This report was published December 20 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
December 20, 2013