Mar 22, 2010 (CIDRAP News) – Pandemic flu activity remained at uncharacteristically low levels for week 10 of the season, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in its most recent update, though the virus is still circulating amid anecdotal reports of increased activity in a few southern locations.
For the week ending Mar 13, most flu barometers stayed the same as the previous week. Deaths from pneumonia and flu dipped below the seasonal baseline for the first time in several weeks, while visits to doctors' offices for flu-like illnesses remained below the national baseline, according to the CDC's Mar 19 update. Lab-confirmed pandemic flu hospitalizations have leveled off, and the CDC said it received very few reports during week 10 of the current flu season.
As with the previous 9 weeks, no states reported widespread activity. The number of states reporting regional activity dropped from five to three: Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi. Flu-related doctors' visits were above regional baseline in only one CDC surveillance region, the southeast.
Local flu activity was reported by Puerto Rico and eight states: Arkansas, Hawaii, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Hospital officials in the Houston area have noted a small but steady increase in pandemic flu cases, the Houston Chronicle reported on Mar 19. Authorities at Texas Children's Hospital are reporting slight increases in the number of confirmed pandemic H1N1 cases over the past few weeks, along with a "small bump" in hospital admissions.
Meanwhile, public health officials in Florida's Volusia County recently upgraded the area's flu activity level from sporadic to localized, the Daytona Beach News-Journal reported on Mar 19. However, virus activity in neighboring Flagler County remained at sporadic levels, according to the state health department's latest update.
The CDC said it received two more reports of pediatric flu deaths, one from Oklahoma and the other from Texas. Both occurred earlier in the flu season. One involved the pandemic H1N1 virus, and the other was linked to an undetermined influenza A subtype that is thought to be the pandemic virus.
Of nearly 3,600 specimens that were tested during week 10, only 5.6% (200) were positive for influenza. Of all subtyped influenza A viruses, all were the pandemic H1N1 virus. Three influenza B viruses were reported.
No new cases of oseltamivir-resistant pandemic flu have been identified since the CDC's last report.
In other developments, the CDC on Mar 19 published a new flyer advising how the public can avoid the flu and other infections. It covers hand washing, cough and sneeze hygiene, and social distancing measures.
The flyer focuses on preventing flu infections in the workplace, such as cleaning frequently touched surfaces such as doorknobs and keyboards often and implementing cross-training actions that free employees to stay home if they are sick or need to care for a family member. It also covers school settings, advising parents to ask if schools have plans to respond to flu outbreaks.
Mar 19 CDC flu update