Just three months into the 2012-2013 flu season, it appears that the United States will experience one of the most severe outbreaks this century. Data released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) suggest that the annual outbreak of respiratory illness has arrived earlier, and with more severe illnesses, than at any time since 2003-2004. Only the pandemic flu outbreak may have produced more illnesses and deaths when this season ends in May.
It is not a pandemic. The primary strain of influenza being found during testing is influenza A (H3N2). The (H3) strains of the flu do not predominate very often, but when they do, as in 2003-2004, the illnesses seem to be more severe and more numerous. One reason may be the relative scarcity of (H3) infections during most flu seasons, resulting in few people with immunity due to prior infections.
The flu season in the United States runs from October 1 to May. The number of illnesses usually peaks in January and February. The 2011-2012 influenza season is characterized by the CDC as mild while 2003-2004 is called moderately severe. The various states, New York City and the District of Columbia send data on a weekly basis to the CDC for its weekly FluView publication. In addition, the states and cities often collect other data and many post it weekly on their health department websites. Links to those sites are at the bottom of this story.
The current data accumulated from both the states and the CDC:
18 flu deaths in children
314 flu deaths in adults over 18
8,785 hospitalizations due to flu as confirmed by testing
One of the most useful tools for estimating influenza activity is the reporting of visits to hospital emergency departments and clinics for influenza-like illnesses (ILI). While other respiratory viral illnesses are also spreading in the community, the ILI rate has proven to be a good indicator of increased flu activity in the community. For example, 20 percent of Vermont outpatient visits in the week ending December 29 were for an ILI.
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Click on a jurisdiction below to access the latest local influenza information.