2013-2014 flu season hits young, middle-aged adults


This year’s flu season has been hard on young and middle-aged adults, with most hospitalizations involving patients 18 to 64 years old.

This year’s flu season has been hard on young and middle-aged adults, with the majority of influenza-associated hospitalizations (61.6%) occurring in those 18 to 64 years old, according to a January 4threport from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

More than 2,600 hospitalizations due to laboratory-confirmed influenza have been reported from October 2013 to January 2014, which represents a cumulative rate of 9.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 individuals. The predominant virus this year is H1N1, the same virus that was responsible for the 2009 influenza pandemic.

“This pattern of more hospitalizations among younger people was also seen during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic,” the CDC reported.

Thirty-five states have reported widespread influenza and 20 have reported high levels of influenza-like illness. Those states reporting widespread influenza were Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

States reporting regional influenza activity were Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. So far, those reporting just local influenza activity are District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Delaware, and Vermont. Hawaii was the only state reporting sporadic influenza activity.

The southern states have been hit hard this year, including Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, and Texas.

Of the hospitalized adults, the most commonly reported underlying medical conditions were obesity, metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, and asthma. The most commonly reported underlying medical conditions in children were asthma, obesity, neurologic disorders, chronic lung disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Approximately 6.9% of all deaths in the United States this season were caused by pneumonia or influenza, which is below the epidemic threshold of 7.1%. So far, 10 children have died from influenza-related illness this season, the CDC reported.

Still the best way to protect against influenza is by obtaining an annual flu vaccination. CDC recommends the flu vaccine for individuals 6 months and older. Early in the season only 39.5% of individuals 6 months and older had received the flu vaccine. Among children (6 months to 17 years), 41.1% had been vaccinated for prevention of flu. Among adults, only 39.0% had received the flu vaccine.

“Among both adults and children, the most common places for flu vaccination were medical locations. Retail settings and workplaces were other important venues for adults,” the CDC reported.

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Dr. Charles Lee
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