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Influenza, or flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses. The "flu" is a common catch-all term used for a variety of illnesses, but it correctly applies only to the upper respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus.
Estimates are that between 15% and 40% of the population will develop illness from influenza every year. An average of about 36,000 people per year in the United States die from influenza, and 114,000 per year have to be admitted to the hospital as a result of influenza infection. Anyone can get the flu (even healthy people), and serious problems from influenza can happen at any age. People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza.
For the most current information about influenza in Florida, please see Florida's Weekly Surveillance Report, the Florida Flu Review. Below is a summary of the current flu review.
Summary - Week 6: February 5-11, 2017
State influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) activity:
• Influenza season is here. Florida reported widespread activity to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for the fifth week in a row.
• In week 6, influenza activity in Florida continued to steadily increase. Elevated influenza activity is expected for several weeks, with peak activity still ahead.
• Statewide, the percent of emergency department (ED) and urgent care center (UCC) visits for ILI increased.
• The percent of ED and UCC visits for ILI among adults ≥65 years old and children <18 years old increased and was above levels observed in previous seasons at this time. Children and adults ≥65 years old are at higher risk for severe complications from influenza infection.
• Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) activity in children <5 years old decreased, but remained above levels observed in previous seasons at this time (see page 12).
• In week 5, the preliminary estimated number of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) increased and was similar to levels seen in previous seasons at this time.
• In week 6, no influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported.
• Three influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far this season in Florida. While rare, Florida receives reports of influenza-associated pediatric deaths each season.
• Annual vaccination remains the best way to protect children against influenza infection. It is not too late to vaccinate children for the 2016-17 influenza season. If you have not gotten vaccinated yet, you should get vaccinated now.
• Twenty-eight counties reported moderate influenza activity, 37 counties reported mild influenza activity, and two counties reported no influenza activity.
• Sixteen influenza or ILI outbreaks were reported, with the majority occurring in facilities serving adults aged ≥65 years old. A total of 74 outbreaks of influenza or ILI have been reported so far this season.
• Since the start of the 2016-17 influenza season, the most common influenza subtype detected at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories (BPHL) statewide has been influenza A (H3).
National influenza activity:
• In recent weeks, influenza and ILI activity increased nationally. In week 5, levels were above those observed in previous seasons at this time. The majority of states, including Florida, reported widespread influenza activity.
• CDC recommends annual vaccination for everyone ≥6 months old. People who have not been vaccinated against influenza should get vaccinated as soon as possible.
• In recent weeks, influenza A (H3) has been the most common subtype reported to CDC by public health laboratories across the nation.
• Seasons in which influenza A (H3) predominates have been associated with more severe illness, particularly in young children and adults ≥65 years old.
• There is increased risk for highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 virus identification in birds during the fall and winter migratory season. HPAI H5 has not been identified in Florida birds and would be expected to be seen in more northerly states first, but identifications are possible. To date, only two wild ducks have tested positive for HPAI H5 since August 2016; one was identified in Alaska in August and the second was identified in Montana in January. No human HPAI infections have been identified in Florida or other states.
• To learn more about HPAI, please visit: www.floridahealth.gov/novelflu.