Wednesday, December 5, 2012
QD: News Every Day--Flu season peaking a month early, CDC says
Nearly every state reports lab-confirmed flu cases, influenza-like-illnesses are already higher than all of last season, and five states are already reporting the highest level of flu activity possible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Melinda Wharton, MD, FACP, Acting Director of CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said at a December 3 media briefing that it's the earliest that the nation has reached a baseline level of flu activity since the 2003-2004 season, which was early and severe, with the exception of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic. Last season's flu activity was mild and late, the U.S. did not reach a baseline level of influenza-like-illnesses until mid-March.
Flu is most intense in the south-central and southeast of the country right now, with Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana and Texas seeing the highest levels, Dr. Wharton said.
CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, said in a teleconference with reporters, that "We've seen an increase in flu that's over the threshold that suggests that the flu season has started," Dr. Frieden said. "So about 2.2% of all of the visits variable in different parts of the country are for illnesses that are like the flu. A significant proportion of which will end up being flu. That's higher in five states that have high level activity, and have as many as 4% or more of their visits, flu-related symptoms."
Flu shows signs of increasing across the rest of the country as well. Most of the viruses characterized so far this season have been H3N2 viruses, which are typically associated with more severe seasons. But, most of the viruses affecting people this season are well-matched to the vaccine viruses, the CDC reports.
Dr. Wharton also provided preliminary estimates of vaccinations through early-mid November. Vaccination rates among the general public are about even with last year at an estimated 37%. More than a third of the vaccines being given either at work sites or pharmacies.
About 80% to 90% percent of pharmacists, doctors and nurses are getting vaccinated, although there is a need to do better among allied health workers, aids and other health care systems, as well as in nursing homes.
Though each flu season varies, the flu can hospitalize up to 200,000 people and kill between 3,000 and 49,000 during a season. In past flu seasons, as many as 80% of adults hospitalized from flu complications had a long-term health condition, as did about 50% of hospitalized children.
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Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000.
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Amanda Xi, ACP Medical Student Member, is a first-year medical student at the OUWB School of Medicine, charter class of 2015, in Rochester, Mich., from which she which chronicles her journey through medical training from day 1 of medical school.
Ira S. Nash, MD, FACP, is the senior vice president and executive director of the North Shore-LIJ Medical Group, and a professor of Cardiology and Population Health at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and Cardiovascular Diseases and was in the private practice of cardiology before joining the full-time faculty of Massachusetts General Hospital.
Zackary Berger, MD, ACP Member, is a primary care doctor and general internist in the Division of General Internal Medicine at Johns Hopkins. His research interests include doctor-patient communication, bioethics, and systematic reviews.
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Run by three ACP Fellows, this blog ponders vexing issues in infection prevention and control, inside and outside the hospital. Daniel J Diekema, MD, FACP, practices infectious diseases, clinical microbiology, and hospital epidemiology in Iowa City, Iowa, splitting time between seeing patients with infectious diseases, diagnosing infections in the microbiology laboratory, and trying to prevent infections in the hospital. Michael B. Edmond, MD, FACP, is a hospital epidemiologist in Richmond, Va., with a focus on understanding why infections occur in the hospital and ways to prevent these infections, and sees patients in the inpatient and outpatient settings. Eli N. Perencevich, MD, ACP Member, is an infectious disease physician and epidemiologist in Iowa City, Iowa, who studies methods to halt the spread of resistant bacteria in our hospitals (including novel ways to get everyone to wash their hands).
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Robert M. Centor, MD, FACP, contributes short essays contemplating medicine and the health care system.
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member
Suneel Dhand, MD, ACP Member, is a practicing physician in Massachusetts. He has published numerous articles in clinical medicine, covering a wide range of specialty areas including; pulmonology, cardiology, endocrinology, hematology, and infectious disease. He has also authored chapters in the prestigious "5-Minute Clinical Consult" medical textbook. His other clinical interests include quality improvement, hospital safety, hospital utilization, and the use of technology in health care.
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Also known as the Green Journal, the American Journal of Medicine publishes original clinical articles of interest to physicians in internal medicine and its subspecialities, both in academia and community-based practice.
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