Somewhere buried beneath the snow and the sleet, obscured by Hosni, Ben Ali, and the fight for freedom, and drowned by floods of Australia and WikiLeaks is the news about flu season. It’s here, folks, but recent events are placing the flu after page 6 and before the Sports section. In any case, flu activity has increased across the country. That’s not unexpected. However, its ramifications are not as alarming as some have feared. Hospitalizations and deaths are below expectations. Check out the CDC map and the graphs below in order to appreciate the progression of the disease over the past month.
Meanwhile, Moscow and a couple of other Russian cities closed their schools for a while in order to stall the flu outbreak in their midst. In Moscow, that meant the closure of over 1,500 schools and ~500,000 children receiving a week of unanticipated vacation (http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-01-flu-epidemic-moscow-schools.html).
Also, just the other day, a study from Finland suggested that there may be a connection between narcolepsy and the H1N1 vaccine, Pandemrix, by Glaxo (http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/cidrap/content/influenza/swineflu/news/feb0111narcolepsy.html; http://www.thl.fi/en_US/web/en/pressrelease?id=24103; http://www.euro.who.int/en/what-we-do/health-topics/disease-prevention/vaccines-and-immunization/news/news/2012/02/pandemrix-vaccine-and-increased-risk-of-narcolepsy). Pandemrix is an adjuvanted H1N1 vaccine that has been administered in 47 countries (31 million doses). The study involved 60 Finnish children and adolescents in 2009 and 2010. Of those with narcolepsy, 52 (nearly 90%) had received the Pandemrix vaccine. Narcolepsy cases had also increased among the children of Iceland and Sweden, but most everyone agrees that more studies are needed to prove a cause and effect.
This is mentioned here because eventually this item might find its way on the 6 o’clock news and it’s important to keep it all in perspective.
2010-2011 Influenza Season Week 3 ending January 22, 2011
All data are preliminary and may change as more reports are received.
During week 3 (January 16-22, 2011), influenza activity in the United States increased.
- Of the 5,823 specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division, 1,754 (30.1%) were positive for influenza.
- The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was below the epidemic threshold.
- Three influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Two of these deaths were associated with influenza A (H3) virus infection and one was associated with an influenza B virus.
- The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 3.6%, which is above the national baseline of 2.5%. Six of the 10 regions (Regions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7) reported ILI above region-specific baseline levels. Nine states experienced high ILI activity, eight states experienced moderate ILI activity, New York City and nine states experienced low ILI activity, 24 states experienced minimal ILI activity, and data were insufficient from the District of Columbia.
- The geographic spread of influenza in 25 states was reported as widespread; 16 states reported regional influenza activity; the District of Columbia and four states reported local influenza activity, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and four states reported sporadic influenza activity, Guam reported no influenza activity, and one state did not report.
FluSurv-NET conducts population-based surveillance for laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in children (persons younger than 18 years) and adults. The current network covers over 80 counties in the 10 Emerging Infections Program (EIP) states (CA, CO, CT, GA, MD, MN, NM, NY, OR, and TN) and six additional states (ID, MI, OH, OK, RI, and UT).