Spikes in US indicators point to intensifying pandemic

Oct 23, 2009 (CIDRAP News) – Pandemic flu activity is now widespread in 46 states, five more than the previous week, causing an increasing number of school closures and starting to hit the young adult age-group harder, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said today.

At a press briefing today, Tom Frieden, MD, director of the CDC, said, "We have had up until now many millions of cases of pandemic influenza in the U.S. And the numbers continue to increase."

Visits to doctors for flu-like illnesses, a general barometer of flu activity, were steeply higher for the week ending Oct 17, which the CDC said in an update today is higher then they see during the peak of many regular flu seasons.

Hospitalization rates for lab-confirmed flu cases are also higher than expected for this time of year, the CDC said. For the second week in a row, deaths from flu and pneumonia increased.

Eleven more flu-related pediatric deaths were reported to the CDC over the past week, nine of them confirmed as being caused by the pandemic H1N1 virus. The other two involved influenza A viruses that weren't subtyped. The new reports raise the number of pediatric deaths from the pandemic H1N1 virus since April to 95, plus seven that were not subtyped.

Though the CDC shares the public's frustration about shortages of the pandemic H1N1 vaccine, it is also receiving reports of shortages of the seasonal flu vaccine. Frieden said so far 85 million of the season's expected 116 million doses have been distributed, which unlike the pandemic vaccine go to providers through private channels.

The CDC has just received new data about uptake of the seasonal flu vaccine, which suggests 60 million people have been immunized, according to Frieden. "That is way more, way sooner than in any prior year. That's strong uptake and we hope that trend continues," he added. Earlier this fall, public health officials urged Americans to receive the seasonal flu vaccine early to make way for providers to distribute the pandemic vaccine in October.

See also:

CDC pandemic H1N1 update page

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