Flu activity in the Northern Hemisphere is rising, with levels up sharply over the past few weeks in North America, the World Health Organization (WHO) said yesterday in its latest global flu update, which roughly covers the last half of October.
The WHO's update also covered other respiratory infections, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is on the rise in several parts of the world.
In the United States and Canada, flu activity was above national baselines for this time of year, with the H3N2 strain predominant. Both countries are experiencing increased RSV activity. Europe's flu activity is also rising, especially in Germany, Portugal, and Spain, but is still considered low.
Other areas seeing rises include Kazakhstan in central Asia, plus some countries on the Arabian Peninsula. Flu increased sharply in southern Asia, led by brisk activity in Iran.
Some of South America's temperate countries reported rising flu markers, including Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.
Other countries with available information reporting rises in RSV illness include France, Ireland, South Korea, and Brazil.
Of respiratory samples testing positive for flu at national labs during the latter part of October, 92.8% were influenza A. Of the subtyped flu A samples, 78.8% were H3N2. Of the subtyped influenza B samples, all belonged to the Victoria lineage.
Child's death from flu, RSV in California
In a related development, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) yesterday reported the first death of the winter season from flu and RSV in a child younger than 5. It said young children are most vulnerable to severe complications from RSV in flu, especially if they have underlying health conditions or were born premature.
Because of patient confidentiality, the CDPH did not release any other details about the case.
Owing to a further rise in hospitalizations from an early winter virus season, the CDPH also issued new guidance for responding to a surge of infections in pediatric patients, which allows hospitals to reconfigure space to accommodate the surge.
The CDPH also recommended that inpatient and outpatient facilities without existing pediatric services explore short-term measures to expand capacity for treating pediatric patients.