Healthcare Business News

Flu epidemic worsens nationwide, CDC says

By Paul Barr
Posted: January 18, 2013 - 2:30 pm ET

The influenza epidemic worsened nationwide last week as measured by indicators related to mortality and hospitalizations, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health officials also stressed the threat that the flu poses to the elderly.

Mortality figures worsened last week, according to the CDC. Of all deaths reported through the Cities Mortality Reporting System, 8.3% were attributed to flu and pneumonia in the week ended Jan. 12, up from 7.3% the previous week and remaining above the CDC's epidemic threshold of 7.3% for last week, known as Week 2.

The cumulative rate of hospitalizations associated with the flu climbed to 18.8 per 100,000 people, a rise from 13.3 per 100,000 population the previous week.

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CDC officials said during a teleconference that the outlook is serious for the elderly, who are getting hospitalized at high rates, 82 per 100,000 population, and not enough hospitals are treating the elderly and other high-risk patients with anti-viral medicines. Only a one-third to one-half of high-risk patients are getting the anti-viral treatment, treatment that would be effective in reducing the severity of illness and the number of deaths, said Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC.

Shortages of the vaccine still are occurring in areas, but “by and large, people that want to get vaccinated will be able to get vaccinated,” Frieden said.

The data for outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was revised to indicate the flu during week ending Jan. 5 was worse than originally thought, and last week's latest numbers were down from the higher revised figures, according to the CDC.

Last week's data showed the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses was 4.6%, down from the revised figure of 4.8% for the week ended Jan. 5. The CDC last week had reported the figure to be 4.3% of outpatient visits.

Geographically, the number of states with high levels of influenza-like illness activity rose to 30 from 24—and now includes both New York City and state, and 10 states experienced moderate levels of activity, down from 16. California can now be counted as having moderate activity after having been classified as having minimal activity the previous week.

Seven states are experiencing low levels of activity, and influenza-like illness levels remain minimal in Kentucky, Maine and Montana, according to the CDC.

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