The 2018-2019 influenza season is well under way, and a recent CDC report confirmed that incidence rates for influenza are widespread and increasing.
High levels of influenza have been reported in at least 42 states as of December 2018, with rates expected to continue to increase until the flu season ends.
However, this year’s influenza vaccine contains protection against the four most dominant strains of flu disease circulating this year. This means that getting a flu vaccine this year is more likely to protect patients than in previous years when the dominant strains were not in the influenza vaccine.
Woman blowing nose. Source: Getty
“The majority of influenza viruses characterized antigenically and genetically are similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses,” the CDC confirmed.
The majority of flu cases this year are H1N1, a milder strain. However, the minority of cases, about 10%, are H3N2 flu—a more serious strain of the virus.
Despite the protective value of this year’s flu vaccine, the CDC reports that flu us still widespread in much of the United States. The majority of the eastern US coast is currently experiencing widespread flu, as well as most of the western coast—including California.
Currently, hospitalizations for influenza stand at 5.4 cases per 100,000 people.
“The highest rate of hospitalization was among children aged 0-4 (14.5 per 100,000 population), followed by adults aged ≥65 (11.9 per 100,000 population) and adults aged 50-64 (6.2 per 100,000 population),” the CDC wrote. “Among 1,562 hospitalizations, 1,397 (89.4%) were associated with influenza A virus, 145 (9.3%) with influenza B virus, 15 (1.0%) with influenza A virus and influenza B virus co-infection, and 5 (0.3%) with influenza virus for which the type was not determined.”
Thus far, a total of 13 influenza-associated deaths have been reported in pediatric patients for the 2018-2019 flu season.
“Based on National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) mortality surveillance data available on January 3, 2019, 6.1% of the deaths occurring during the week ending December 22, 2018 (week 51) were due to pneumonia and influenza. This percentage is below the epidemic threshold of 6.9% for week 51,” the CDC wrote.