Influenza Widespread Across the U.S. with 15 Pediatric Fatalities in Late February

By the bioMérieux Connection Editors

According to a CDC summary of the latest influenza statistics for Week 8 (week ending February 23) this season is still elevated with “widespread influenza activity” in 49 states and Puerto Rico. “Local influenza activity” was reported only in Hawaii and the District of Columbia. The CDC also reports that there were 15 reported pediatric fatalities from influenza during Week 8.

A striking takeaway is that there weren’t any pediatric fatalities reported for this same time period in the previous three flu seasons—including last year when pediatric fatalities were significantly elevated. The CDC reported 94 total pediatric fatalities during the 2015-16 flu season, 110 total pediatric fatalities during the 2016-17 flu season, and 185 total pediatric fatalities during the 2017-18 flu season. The 15 pediatric fatalities reported during Week 8 is nearly one-quarter of the 56 total pediatric fatalities reported so far for this influenza season.

According to the CDC’s latest FluView: Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, “The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza viruses in clinical laboratories increased slightly. Nationally, during Week 8, influenza A(H3) viruses were reported more frequently than influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses. During the most recent three weeks, influenza A(H3) viruses were reported more frequently than influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses in HHS Regions 2, 4, 6 and 7.”

These statistics show that the predominant strain of influenza transitioned from influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 to influenza A(H3N2), which is considered to be more dangerous. However, of the 15 pediatric fatalities, eight were linked to influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 and only one was linked to  the influenza A(H3) virus. Subtyping was not done for the remaining six pediatric fatalities, so their etiologies are undefined.

According to outpatient healthcare statistics, the number of people who reported influenza-like illness (ILI) fell slightly during Week 8 but is still quite elevated at 5%. The national baseline is 2.2%. The CDC defines ILI as fever (temperature of 100°F [37.8°C] or greater), cough, and/or sore throat.

As of Week 8, the proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza has declined, and viral resistance to common antiviral therapies for influenza is low. “The vast majority of influenza viruses tested (>99%) show susceptibility to oseltamivir and peramivir. All influenza viruses tested showed susceptibility to zanamivir,” reported the CDC.

Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of bioMérieux, Inc.

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