Flu Virus Still Getting Strong In Western States

What is considered as the worst flu season in recent history is still flexing its muscle in Western States.

Out of the 24 states that reported high number of influenza-like conditions (ILI), 19 were around the Mississippi River during the first four weeks of the year, ending 26th of January. This is according to “Flu View” 2012-13 flu season report released on Friday by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

In the last days of 2012, 18 and 29 states reported elevated cases of ILI, lay east of Mississippi.

The migration of the flu virus from east to west is an enduring pattern according to the CDC.

Though there’s been a decrease of percentage of outpatient visits throughout the country, it rose abruptly in the fourth week of 2013, affecting 8 Western states, including Arizona, Alaska, California, Nevada, Idaho, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington. The rate also took a step slightly higher in Midwestern states of Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska.

According to the Flu View report, the ILI rate for the fourth week of this year, across the country, is at 4.2%. That’s slightly lower from week three though. This is also a sign of decrease, as the rate went as high as 5.6% in the last week of 2012.

Another key factor for flu activity is the number of respiratory specimens that was tested positive for the virus, which also continued its gradual drop from 26.1% in third week of this year, to 25.5% on the fourth week of 2013. Furthermore, the number of states reporting widespread influenza fell to 42.

Children and Seniors Face Special Threat As Flu Grows Acute in 48 States

One of the biggest headlines about this flu season is the new strain that particularly affects children and seniors, which has already expanded throughout 40 states this year.

Though the dominant strain varies depending on the region, the H3N2 A is the prevalent strain this flu season, and its patient is mostly children and the elderly. The US CDC reported a total of 8.3% deaths in over 122 cities across the country of both flu and pneumonia (the usual consequence of the virus) – this is 1.1% above the standard used to categorize flu epidemics.

Based on the statistics collected from 1976 to 2006, there’s an average of 36,000 deaths in a usual flu season, where the number of fatalities ranges from 3,000 to 49,000 each year. From this group, almost 90% deaths are among adults, particularly 65 years old and up.

Likely, almost 50% of hospitalization from this age group, and for this year in particular, the data shows to be higher than normal.

Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, from the CDC, said that – “Last week hospitalization rates increased sharply in people 65 and over, and this week hospitalization rates for people 65 and over increased sharply again — to 82 per 100,000, which is really quite a high rate.”

The flu virus has been common in the South and Southeast for as early as November, which is far earlier than the common flu season, which usually peaks during January and early-February. Also, experts warn that, this year’s flu season is far from over.

Frieden said “we are in the middle of flu season, about halfway through, and it’s shaping up to be a worse-than-average season and a bad season, particularly, for the elderly.”

Despite of maxing out in some regions across the country, the H3N2 flu strain is still quite severe and common. Experts say the virus is even growing worse in some other parts of the country.

Influenza vaccine, which is still widely available despite the advancement of the outbreak, still provides the best protection against flu and flu-related conditions. Despite its shortages in particular parts of the country – only 129 million doses from the distributed 135 million – flu shot makers say they can increase the production to about 149 million vaccines to meet the growing demand.