Influenza activity has declined for the first time this flu season, suggesting that the season might have peaked, according to CDC data released Friday.
Despite the decline, the latest CDC data, which span through the week ending on Feb. 17, show flu activity remains widespread and continues to account for numerous hospitalizations and deaths.
Flu activity during the week ending Feb. 17 was widespread in 48 states, according to the data—which was unchanged from the previous week. Two states—Hawaii and Oregon—as well as Washington, D.C., and Guam reported regional flu activity during the week ending Feb. 17. The U.S. Virgin Islands did not report any flu activity.
According to CDC data, 39 states, New York City, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C., continue to report high influenza-like illness activity.
Flu-related hospitalization rate
According to the data, the national hospitalization rate for flu in the week ending on Feb. 17 reached 74.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 individuals, up from 67.9 hospitalizations per 100,000 individuals during the previous week. Overall, the data show 21,279 laboratory-confirmed flu-associated hospitalizations occurred in the United States from Oct. 1, 2017, through Feb. 17.
However, the data show the share of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness was 6.4% during the week ending on Feb. 17—down from 7.4% during the previous week. CDC said the 6.4% rate was still higher than "the peak of flu activity observed during many seasons" and the national baseline of 2.2%.
Flu-related mortality rate
The data show that pneumonia and flu were related to 9.5% of all deaths that occurred in the United States during the week ending Feb. 17, which CDC said is above the "epidemic" threshold.
According to the data, a total of 97 flu-associated pediatric deaths were reported for the 2017-2018 flu season as of Feb. 17. Of those deaths:
- 34% occurred among children ages 5 to 11;
- 26.8% occurred among children ages 12 to 17;
- 17.5% occurred among children ages two to four;
- 14% occurred among children ages six months to 23 months; and
- 7.2% occurred among children under five months.
Daniel Jernigan, director of CDC's Influenza Division, said, "It has been a tough season so far this year, but … we're actually seeing visits to doctors' offices, emergency departments, and outpatient clinics beginning to drop, so it looks like the peak of the season may actually be behind us." However, Jernigan said, "We're likely to see influenza continue to circulate until mid-April" (Zimmerman, Becker's Clinical Leadership & Infection Control, 2/23; Sun, "To Your Health," Washington Post, 2/23, "FluView," CDC, accessed 2/23).
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