CDC Declares Flu Epidemic


As the calendar turns to 2015 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the flu season has reached the "epidemic threshold."

As the calendar turns to 2015 the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced that the flu season has reached the “epidemic threshold.”

According to information on the CDC website, a total of 21,858 specimens have been tested for the influenza virus just from December 14-20, with 6,152 coming back with positive results. During that week there were 4 “influenza-associated” pediatric deaths and 9.7 lab confirmed hospitalizations associated with the virus per 100,000 people. That brings the total to 15 influenza-associated deaths during the current flu season.

The impact of the current outbreak was felt outside of hospital walls as well as outpatient visits, with influenza-like Illness (ILI) at 5.5%, which the CDC noted was well above the national average of just 2.0%. The increase was attributed to 22 states and Puerto Rico reporting “high ILI” activity and six states reporting moderate ILI. Influenza cases have now been reported in 36 states as well as Guam and Puerto Rico.

The CDC has reported characterizing a total of 305 influenza viruses with most being of the A(H3n2) strain and 56 cases of influenza B since October of 2014. One issue with the current outbreak has been a large amount of antiviral resistance even by patients who received a vaccine for a different strain of the flu.

“High levels of resistance to the adamantanes (amantadine and rimantadine) persist among A (H1N1)pdm09 and A(H3N2 viruses,” the CDC noted.

As part of its report on the current flu season the CDC also included a statement from Genentech, the manufacturer of Tamiflu, reporting the company has an “ample supply” of both the oral suspension and capsule forms of the drug. According to the Genentech website, Tamiflu is designed for patients at least 2 weeks old and older who have had symptoms of the virus for “no more than 2 days.”

“Flu activity is unpredictable and, as the manufacturer of Tamiflu, we do our best each season to anticipate flu spikes and work with our network of national distributors and pharmacies to provide

Tamiflu to those areas of the country that need it most.”

While the supply is currently at a consistent level, the company acknowledged that could change depending on the course of the current situation.

“According to the CDC, influenza activity is continuing to increase in the US, and, as such, we are beginning to see increased demand in some parts of the country. Despite robust supply nationally, from time-to-time, spot shortages may occur in local areas. If needed, pharmacies should work with authorized distributors to obtain additional supply of Tamiflu capsules and Tamiflu Oral suspension.”

The CDC noted on its website that flu seasons typically last until February but have been known to extend until May making the current rise in cases a troubling indicator for the months ahead.

The website also suggested ways to avoid getting the virus including regular hand washing, staying away from people who potentially have the flu and not going to work or school if you are showing symptoms to avoid spreading it to others.

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Elizabeth Cerceo, MD | Credit: ACP
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