Healthcare Business News

Flu outbreak reaches epidemic levels: CDC

By Paul Barr and Beth Kutscher
Posted: January 11, 2013 - 12:30 pm ET

The spread of influenza officially hit epidemic levels last week based on the number of deaths from flu and pneumonia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's weekly flu report.

The CDC reported that 7.3% of all deaths reported through the Cities Mortality Reporting System were due to influenza and pneumonia, above the 7.2% threshold for the week ended Jan. 5. Since the beginning of the flu season, there have been 3,710 laboratory-confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations, a rate of 13.3 per 100,000. Eighty-six percent of them were for the more virulent influenza A strain, while 13% for influenza B. The remaining cases were unidentified.

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However, CDC officials say that there are nevertheless measures of improvement in some areas of the country, such as the South and Southeast, where outpatient visits to healthcare providers for influenza-like illness declined week-over-week to 4.3% for the week ended Jan. 5.

For the week ended Dec. 29, flu-related complaints accounted for 5.6% of patient visits.

However, CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden noted in a media call that while some areas of the country may be over the peak, other regions, particularly in the West, may see rising numbers of cases.

“It's likely that influenza will continue for several more weeks,” he said.

Hospitals and governmental officials continue to push people to get vaccinated. The CDC estimated the vaccine was 62% effective, which was described as moderately effective.

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