Latest flu season drawing to a close but elderly still at risk
The season was moderately severe in its beginning, which struck the Eastern part of the U.S. hard near Christmas time, approximately one month earlier than normal. The season also appears to be waning earlier than usual, USA Today reports.
"I think it's safe to say that we're trending down," Lyn Finelli, the chief of influenza surveillance at the CDC, said, according to USA Today. "The activity started in the Southeast and South Central, around Texas, Arkansas, and we saw that area start to trend down a couple of weeks ago. Then it moved up to the Northeast and the Midwest and then to the West, where it was trending up until about a week ago and now is consistently trending down."
Finelli said that 31 states still have flu activity and that people should stay home if they contract the illness.
The CDC uses the percentage of influenza-like-illnesses reported out of all doctor visits nationwide to determine the official start and end of flu season. The season is considered underway when the ILI percentage rises above 2.2 percent.
Two weeks ago, the ILI percentage dropped to 3.2 percent from 4.2 percent the previous week. The last week of December the ILI rate was as high as 5.6 percent.
Finelli said that people over 65 were being hospitalized at extremely high rates at 140 hospitalizations per 100,000 in the population during the season. The rate is usually 30 to 40 seniors per 100,000 population. She said it was the highest hospitalization rates among seniors the CDC has ever seen, USA Today reports.
"The elderly need to be aware that they don't necessarily get a fever when they get influenza," Finelli said, according to USA Today. "So when seniors have a cough, body and muscle aches or headaches and they just feel really knocked out, they need to call their doctors and get in and get treated."