According to health officials, this year’s flu season has now sent more people to the hospital with the illness than in nearly a decade.
Officials said they are particularly concerned about the season’s hospitalization rate — 51.4 per 100,000 people — which is already significantly higher than the 43.5 rate for the same period during the 2014-2015 season.
“As of this week [February 2], overall hospitalizations are now the highest we’ve seen in nearly a decade,” stated CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat during a recent media briefing.
The CDC also recorded a rise in the percentage of patients who visited healthcare providers complaining of influenza-like illness across the nation: 7.7 percent of patients for the week ending February 3, up from an estimated 7.1 percent during the previous week.
People over 65 are usually the ones with the highest hospitalization rates, with the second-most-affected group being children under age four. But officials recently reported the second-highest hospitalization rate are between 50 to 64 years old; 44.2 per 100,000 people, which is significantly higher than the past several flu seasons.
The level of influenza activity has been elevated for 12 consecutive weeks. During the past five seasons, the average duration of an influenza season has been 16 weeks, ranging from 11 to 20 weeks. All U.S. states, but Hawaii and Oregon, continue to report widespread flu activity and 43 states plus New York City, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico continue to report high influenza-like illness activity.
Levels of illness, based on outpatient visits and visits to emergency rooms, are “now as high as we observed at the peak of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic season,” Schuchat continued.
Officials continue to urge those who have not yet been vaccinated to get their flu shot. The flu season has not yet peaked and all indications suggest weeks of significant flu activity are ahead. In addition, the vaccine may also reduce the severity of symptoms in those who develop influenza.
The high number of hospitalizations demonstrates the substantial health impact of influenza and underscores the need to ensure vaccination of those at increased risk.
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Great Plains QIN works with providers, patients, partners and stakeholders to implement best practices to increase immunization rates. Information and tools, including the posters below, are available on the immunization initiatives web page. Flu updates and resources are also available on the CDC website.