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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 19: May 8-14, 2016
State influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) activity:
• Florida reported “sporadic” activity to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in week 19.
• Influenza activity this season peaked between weeks 7-11. This peak in activity occurred later than in the past six seasons.
• Emergency department (ED) and urgent care center (UCC) visits for ILI remained low, which is typical for this time in the influenza season.
• In recent weeks, the preliminary estimated number of deaths due to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) increased, but remains similar to levels seen in previous seasons at this time.
• In week 19, the majority of counties reported “mild” or no influenza activity.
• No influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported in week 19.
• Seven influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far this season. While rare, Florida receives reports of influenza-associated pediatric deaths each season. Annual vaccination remains the best way to protect children against influenza infection.
• In week 19, no outbreaks of influenza or ILI were reported.
• In recent weeks, the most common influenza subtype detected at the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories (BPHL) has been influenza B, although influenza A 2009 (H1N1) has been the predominately circulating strain for the majority of the season. As Florida transitions into the summer months, we often see a late season change to influenza B as the most commonly circulating strain. This change has also been observed nationally.
National influenza activity:
• Influenza activity continues to decrease. Data suggests that influenza activity peaked nationally around week 10, which also coincided with the peak in Florida.
• The CDC recommends that persons at high risk for developing complications from influenza infection (such as children and pregnant women) or very ill patients suspected of having influenza receive prompt treatment with antiviral drugs, even prior to laboratory confirmation.
• Influenza A 2009 (H1N1) is the predominately circulating strain. In recent weeks, an increasing proportion of influenza B viruses have been detected. This late season circulation of influenza B is expected.
• The vast majority of circulating influenza viruses analyzed this season remain similar to the vaccine virus components for this season's flu vaccines.
• The CDC reported that the 2015-16 influenza vaccine is a good match for the currently circulating strains of influenza.
• A recently published study suggested that Australian women who received the influenza vaccine while pregnant were significantly less likely to experience stillbirth compared to unvaccinated pregnant Australian women. Additional research is needed to make strong conclusions on the subject. To learn more, please visit: cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/03/10/cid.ciw082.abstract.
• Highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 viruses identifications in birds are expected during the spring and summer of 2016. Influenza (HPAI) H5 has not been identified in Florida birds yet, but identifications are anticipated. No human HPAI infections have been identified in Florida or the rest of the nation. To learn more, please visit: www.floridahealth.gov/novelflu.