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Forty-one states reported widespread seasonal flu activity in the latest FluView report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for the week ending Jan. 18, 2014.
The CDC’s report showed that all 10 surveillance regions reported influenza-like illness activity above their specific baseline levels. “Widespread” activity addresses the geographic reach of the flu, not its severity, and signifies that cases of flu have been reported in more than 50 percent of the state.
Flu activity is high overall—specifically in the Northeast—but cases are declining in the Southeast, which began experiencing high levels of activity at the end of November.
The CDC continues to receive reports of flu-related hospitalizations and fatalities.
“Flu activity is likely to continue for some time,” the agency stressed. “Anyone aged 6 months and older who has not gotten a flu vaccine yet this season should get one now, especially if they are in a part of the country where activity is still at a high level.”
The flu season usually peaks in January or February.
The H1N1 strain, known as swine flu during a 2009 outbreak, is the most common flu strain this season. It has since established itself as a human seasonal virus and was included in this year’s vaccination, the CDC said.
State and local health departments are also keeping track of flu activity.
Even though Dallas County, Texas, reported fewer people testing positive for influenza for the fourth week in a row, the county’s death toll from the illness has reached 40 so far this season.
The Indiana State Department of Health’s latest report shows 19 deaths from the flu thus far.
California public health officials announced 95 flu deaths as of now, a tenfold increase from this time into the season last year. Fifty-one other deaths in the state are being investigated for possible links to the flu.
“We are strongly urging anyone who hasn’t received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with their health care provider, local health department or pharmacy about vaccine availability,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of Kentucky’s Department of Public Health. Kentucky was one of the states recently designated as having widespread flu activity.
The CDC also issued a reminder to doctors to keep an eye out for symptoms of unusual flu strains, such as the H5N1 or H7N9 avian or bird flu, as a Canadian man died earlier this month from avian flu since returning from Beijing.
While bird-flu risk remains low in North America, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported Jan. 27 that this strain of flu has killed 19 people in China and infected 96 others so far this year.
Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.
Follow him @SHRMRoy
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