FLU NEWS SCAN: US activity, vaccine uptake, H5N1 in Hong Kong

Nov 19, 2010

US flu activity shows slight rise
Flu activity in the United States rose slightly last week, with Georgia, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico reporting local flu activity and the number of flu and pneumonia-related deaths reaching the epidemic threshold, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported today. Seven percent of specimens tested were positive for influenza, up slightly from 6.8% reported from last week. No pediatric deaths were reported, and the CDC said the three circulating strains still closely match the ones included in the seasonal flu vaccine. About half (54.5%) of the flu viruses characterized last week were influenza B. On a global level, flu activity in the Northern Hemisphere is generally low, except in Bulgaria, which is reporting medium intensity, the CDC said in an international update yesterday. Southern Hemisphere countries are still seeing steady decreases in flu activity, and in tropical regions the only notable flu increase is occurring in Cambodia, where levels are steadily rising and where most cases involve the 2009 H1N1 and H3N2 strains.
CDC weekly flu surveillance report
Nov 18 CDC international flu update

HHS official says 39% of Medicare recipients have had flu shots so far
Data from the Medicare and Medicaid program show that about 39% of Medicare beneficiaries have had flu shots so far this year, which is "a little ahead of where we were last year and the year before," according to Dr. Nicole Lurie, assistant secretary for preparedness and response in the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Speaking at an emerging infections conference in Minneapolis today, Lurie said the Medicare program provides weekly updates on flu vaccine uptake, and this is the first year HHS has had any real-time data of this kind. Meanwhile, British health officials said today that UK flu vaccine uptake at the end of October was running a little behind last year's pace. The UK Department of Health said 48% of people over 65 had had the shot, compared with 54% last year, while 26% of younger people had been vaccinated, versus 31% a year ago. Officials said the decrease might have been caused by unseasonably mild weather or by unnecessary concern about the novel H1N1 strain being included in the vaccine.

WHO confirms Hong Kong H5N1 case
The World Health Organization (WHO) today confirmed the H5N1 infection in a 59-year-old Hong Kong woman whose illness was recently announced by the region's government. She came down with symptoms on Nov 2, a day after returning from a trip with her family to China. She was hospitalized on Nov 14, and her condition has been downgraded from serious to critical. The WHO said 21 H5N1 cases have now been recorded in Hong Kong. Most occurred in 1997 when the virus was first confirmed in humans. The WHO added the case to China's total in the global H5N1 case count, raising the number to 40, which includes 26 deaths. The case lifts the world's H5N1 total to 508 cases, including 302 deaths. Hong Kong is monitoring the woman's close contacts, increasing bird surveillance activities, and taking extra precautions at public hospitals in response to the woman's illness. In other developments, authorities in eastern China where the woman recently visited said they haven't detected any human H5N1 cases, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported today. A statement from Shanghai and Jiangsu province said hotel workers who came in contact with the woman have not shown any H5N1 symptoms.
Nov 19 WHO statement

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