CDC says flu levels currently low

Officials with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have reported that the flu is circulating at low levels in the U.S. with H1N1, H3N2 and influenza B strains appearing sporadically.

The CDC recently released its first surveillance report for the new influenza season, finding flu activity to be sporadic in 19 states, with 31 states reporting no flu activity. CDC officials told CIDRAP News that the number of outpatient visits for flu is below the national baseline. Furthermore, flu and pneumonia-related deaths are below the epidemic threshold and no pediatric deaths have been reported.

CDC officials told CIDRAP News that it uses a number of state surveillance systems to monitor influenza trends. One such system, the International Society for Disease Surveillance, showed that emergency room visits for flu-like illnesses were on the rise in the region that includes Colorado, Montana, North and South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.

Meanwhile, Minnesota health officials have reported that a greater proportion of H3N2 viruses circulating in the nation this year could make for a difficult flu season for the elderly, CIDRAP News reports.

The Minnesota Department of Health reported that two elderly women in the state have died following H3N2 infections. Dr Ruth Lynfield, Minnesota's state epidemiologist, told CIDRAP News that both women were residents of long-term care facilities.

“In years when there has been primarily H3 influenza A circulating, we've seen higher rates of serious illness, particularly in the elderly,” Lynfield told CIDRAP News.

CDC officials said that 129 million flu vaccine doses have already been distributed.