(HealthDay News) – Flu season descended on the United States early and hard this winter, with significant increases in flu activity observed over the past month, according to an update issued Jan. 4 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to the CDC, the proportion of people seeing their health care provider with influenza-like-illness in the U.S. has been elevated for four consecutive weeks, rising from 2.8 to 5.6% during that time period. Influenza-like-illness peaked at 2.2% during the 2011–2012 season.
During Week 52 (Dec. 23–29, 2012), of 9,363 specimens tested and reported by World Health Organization and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System collaborating laboratories, 31.6% were positive for influenza (up from 29.6 reported last week). The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza was below the epidemic threshold. Two influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported and were associated with influenza B viruses (total of 18).
“CDC continues to recommend influenza vaccination and antiviral treatment when appropriate at this time,” according to a media briefing issued by the agency. “CDC has recommendations on the use of antiviral medications (sold commercially as “Tamiflu” and “Relenza“) to treat influenza illness. Antiviral treatment, started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, including young children, people >65 years, people with certain underlying medical conditions, and pregnant women. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing.”