CDC: Flu activity picks up pace, hits summer camps

Jun 26, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – An official from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today that the nation just saw its largest weekly increase in cases since the beginning of the novel flu outbreak and that the virus has so far been detected at 34 summer camps in 16 states.

Anne Schuchat, MD, interim deputy director for the CDC's science and public health program, told reporters, "The key point is that this new infectious disease is not going away." Of the nearly 28,000 cases that have been confirmed in the United States, more than 6,000 were reported over the past week, according to the weekly update the CDC issued today.

She said influenza activity is widespread in 12 states, something very unusual for summer months, but not so unusual for an influenza pandemic. States reporting widespread activity are Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, and Virginia. Nine others are reporting regional activity.

More than 99% of typed influenza isolates are the novel flu strain, Schuchat said. "So virtually all of the influenza that's circulating and getting a diagnosis is this new strain."

Clinical patterns in patients who are sick with the pandemic flu strain are staying constant, with the highest illness rates in people younger than age 25, she said, adding that the median age of those hospitalized with more severe illnesses is 19. However, the median age of people who are dying from novel H1N1 is somewhat older, 37.

Schuchat estimated that about three fourths of the patients who died from the disease had underlying health conditions, though the CDC doesn't have complete information on all 127 fatalities that have been reported.

She noted that though morbid obesity has been singled out as a risk factor that might be unique to the pandemic outbreak, the CDC wants to clarify that some severely obese patients have chronic lung disease that has developed from the burden of the extra weight. "So it's really not a new risk factor for influenza, it's just a repackaging of that chronic lung disease that we've always known was a risk for influenza," she said.

Members of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), which just wrapped up a meeting in Atlanta, discussed several pandemic flu issues, including how to plan for novel flu vaccine distribution, if federal officials decide to use it, Schuchat said. CDC officials are preparing different scenarios on reaching specific populations that states can use to help develop their vaccine distribution plans.

"We haven't finalized the plans, but states should be thinking about younger people, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions," she said. "It's very important for planning to go on."

See also:

CDC influenza surveillance report for the week ending Jun 20

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