US flu markers rise another notch
Flu activity in the United States continued a slow but steady rise last week, with slight increases seen in several of the markers that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) uses to track the levels.
The percentage of respiratory specimens that tested positive for flu rose from 3% to 4.2% last week, with 2009 H1N1 as the predominant strain. The percentage of clinic visits for flulike illness reached the national baseline of 2.1% again, and 6 of the CDC's 10 regions are above their regional baselines for that indicator.
Hospitalization levels from flu rose slightly, from 1.5 to 1.8 per 100,000, with levels highest in seniors and the youngest children. Of flu hospitalizations, influenza A was responsible for 65.4%, and of the subtyped flu A strains, 72.7% were due to 2009 H1N1. For the season, 2009 H1N1 has now passed H3N2 as the most common strain, making up 47.5% of all influenza A viruses, compared with 44.9% for H3N2
No pediatric flu deaths were reported, keeping the total at seven for the season. Overall deaths from flu and pneumonia rose above the epidemic threshold for one of the two surveillance systems the CDC uses for tracking.
Puerto Rico was the only location to report high flu activity, another indicator that reflects clinic visits for flu. Three states reported widespread geographic spread of flu, up from no states at that level last week. They are Maryland, Massachusetts, and North Carolina.
Jan 22 CDC FluView report
China reports H5N1 outbreak involving 35,000 poultry
Chinese veterinary officials today reported an outbreak of H5N1 avian flu on a farm of 35,397 poultry in Guizhou province in the southern part of the country, according to a report filed with the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE).
The outbreak began on Jan 11 with an unusually large bird die-off. Since then 5,869 birds became sick with avian flu, 5,617 of them fatally. All surviving birds were then culled to prevent further spread of the disease. Tests today at an OIE reference lab confirmed the highly pathogenic virus.
The H5N1 outbreak is China's first of the year, after reporting seven last year.
Jan 22 OIE report