The effects of the flu became much more widespread in the last full week of 2018 as the number of states with a high level of influenza activity more than doubled from the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A total of 19 states were in the high range (8-10) on the CDC’s 1-10 scale of influenza-like illness (ILI) activity for the week ending Dec. 29, compared with 9 states the week before, the CDC’s influenza division reported Jan. 4. Of those 19 most-affected states, 12 were at level 10, 1 was at level 9, and 6 were at level 8. Geographic distribution of the virus was reported to be widespread in 24 states, the CDC said.
The proportion of outpatient visits for ILI – defined as fever (temperature of 100° F or greater) and cough and/or sore throat – rose to 4.1% for the week, which was up from 3.3% the previous week and well above the national baseline of 2.2%.
“The increase in the percentage of patient visits for ILI may be influenced in part by a reduction in routine health care visits during the winter holidays,” the report noted. There were 38 influenza deaths reported for the most recent week with available data (the week ending Dec. 22), although reporting for that week was just over 54% complete as of Jan. 4. For the previous weeks, 39 flu-related deaths occurred during the week ending Dec. 15 (reporting 84% complete) and 43 deaths during the week ending Dec. 8 (reporting 94% complete). For the respective weeks of last year’s flu season, total deaths were 359, 165, and 118, CDC data show.
For the week ending Dec. 29, two pediatric deaths were reported, one of which occurred the week before. For the 2018-2019 season so far, 13 flu-related pediatric deaths have been reported, the CDC said.