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State of the flu: One state sees spike in influenza activity

November 26, 2013

    Paige Baschuk, Daily Briefing

    Going South for the holidays? Get your flu shot first: The latest CDC flu report suggests influenza is spreading in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas.

    According to the latest report, which included data through Nov. 16, the total number of pediatric deaths associated with influenza during the 2013-2014 flu season remains at two, the same as last week. Overall, 5.8% of mortalities in the week ending Nov. 16 (or week 46) were related to pneumonia and influenza, below the 6.5% epidemic threshold for week 46.

    Overall, just 1.5% of patient visits nationwide were related to influenza-like illnesses, down from 1.6% the previous week.

    So far, Mississippi is the only state reporting "high" levels of flu activity. Meanwhile, there has been no reported influenza activity in Missouri, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

    Check out the map of U.S. flu activity

    New study reveals that antiviral drugs may curb flu deaths in children

    In related flu news, a new study in Pediatric suggests that promptly prescribing antiviral medications like Tamiflu or Relenza can save the lives of flu-stricken children.

    For the study, researchers from CDC and the California Department of Public Health analyzed the medical records of nearly 800 children hospitalized with flu from April 2009 to September 2012. They found that nearly 6% of the 653 children treated with antiviral drugs died, compared with 8% of the 131 children who did not receive antiviral treatment.

    Since the H1N1 flu pandemic of 2009, CDC has recommended prompt treatment with antiviral drugs for all hospital patients with suspected or confirmed cases—especially among vulnerable children with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.

    The study found that 90% of critically ill children received antiviral drugs during the pandemic, but only 63% received them from September 2010 to September 2012. "Antiviral use has decreased since the pandemic [and] one of the goals of the study was to increase awareness and remind clinicians that antiviral use is important in this population," lead author Janice Louie told the New York Times' "Well" blog.

    Some physicians wait to prescribe antiviral drugs until flu is confirmed—which can take 48 hours—but treating flu-like symptoms before confirmation can improve the patients' survival, the researchers note. 

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