CDC: Widespread flu activity starts to ease in a few areas

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Jan. 21, 2013

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The 2012-13 influenza season started early and has been spreading aggressively throughout the country, public health officials say. Some hospitals are so crowded that they have had to turn away ambulances, according to news reports. But flu may have peaked in some states.

A rush to be immunized against the flu has led to spot shortages of the vaccine and the pediatric formulation of Tamiflu (oseltamivir) in certain communities, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Boston and New York declared public health emergencies due to a high prevalence of influenza-related illness.

While 24 states are reporting high levels of influenza-like activity, some areas, such as parts of the Southeast, are beginning to see a decrease in flu, according to Jan. 11 data from the CDC.

There were 20 pediatric flu-related deaths this season as of Jan. 11 and about 130 million vaccine doses distributed, the CDC said (link). Manufacturers project that they will produce 135 million doses of vaccine this season.

About 90% of the flu strains circulating are included in the vaccine, the CDC said. Although the overall effectiveness of this season’s immunization is less than ideal at 62%, vaccination is the best tool to prevent the spread of the virus, the agency added.

The CDC said there have been a lot of other respiratory viruses and a norovirus circulating through the country that could be contributing to the heavy patient loads seen in emergency departments and medical clinics. The agency encourages physicians to continue administering the flu vaccine to patients who have not yet been immunized.

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