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Pennsylvania Flu Deaths Jump to 40
Recombinomics Commentary 12:00
January 16, 2013

PA Week 2 Flu Hospitalizations

Eighteen (18) influenza-related deaths were reported last week, making 40 the total number of flu-related deaths reported season-to-date. A majority of reported deaths are among the elderly (persons >65 years of age). No pediatric (person <18 years) flu-related death has been reported this season.

The above comments and graph of hospitalized patients are from the week 2 flu report from Pennsylvania.  The deaths in week 2 match the numbers in week 1 which brings the total number of deaths in the first two weeks of 2013 to 36, with three additional deaths reported in the final week of 2012.  This dramatic rise in deaths begins to reflect the virulence of the H3N2 circulating in Pennsylvania, and the large number of hospitalized cases in 2013 indicates the high death rate will continue.

Flu deaths are a trailing indicator.  Media reports have described a pediatric death in Lehigh Valley, which is likely to be lab confirmed, but is not included in the 40 deaths reported in the weekly reports.  The CDC has reported two H3N2 low reactors for the current season, characterized by T128A or L157S and both changes have been reported for Pennsylvania isolates, A/Pennsylvania/20/2012 (87M) and A/Pennsylvanai/21/2012 (71M), respectively. 

Moreover, recent US isolates (from late November collection dates) show an frequency increase in the sub-clade with T128A, raising concerns that this sub-clade will become more common and lower the effectiveness of the H3N2 vaccine which was at 55% in early analysis.

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