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Delays In Reporting US Pediatric Flu Deaths
Recombinomics Commentary 19:30
January 16, 2013

The state Health Department website did not indicate any deaths in Lehigh and Northampton counties, nor any pediatric flu-related deaths. However, an infant had died from flu-related complications in early January at Lehigh Valley Hospital, a hospital spokesman confirmed last week.

The above comments describe the first reported confirmed pediatric flu death in Pennsylvania, which has not been reported in the state’s weekly report or the CDC’s FluView.  The death in early January suggests this child was infected in late 2012 as the number of flu cases began to rise dramatically in Pennsylvania.  However, the week 2 report cited 18 flu deaths and all were adults, matching the report from week 1.  Thus, although Pennsylvania has now reported 40 flu deaths this season, not were pediatric cases.

Delays in reporting cases at this time of year are common due to the December holidays.  Although the CDC acknowledged potential delays in its telebriefing last week as well as the Week 1 FluView, recent downticks in some southeastern states were cited as a possible sign that the current flu season was peaking.  However, Google Flu Trends signals a continuing rise in US flu cases, and media reports such as the one quoted above, as well as state weekly reports, highlight a significant lag in the reporting of pediatric deaths in the CDC’s FluView which was reported 2 cases in each of the past two reports, raising the season total to 20.  The number of reported deaths has increased to 41, and the vast majority is lab confirmed (see list below).  Some have been cited in state lab reports for several weeks, while most have been reported this year.  The 17 listed for weeks 1 and 2 which are not in FluVied almost equals the 20 reported for the entire season.
These lags raise concerns that reports in the upcoming weeks will be double digits, which is close to the total reported for week 51, prior to the holiday delays.  The upcoming reports should help put the pediatric deaths into a more realistic perspective.

FluView pediatric cases
Wk   #    Location

01    2    KS TX
52    2    MI NY
51    8    AR FL ME MI(2) TX WA WI
50    2    NJ
49    1    TX
48    3    IN FL SC
46    1    TX
41    1    TN

Pediatric deaths not in FluView
02   10   MA NE NY TX* TX* OH* OH CO* CO* DE*
01    7    MI* MN* NE* NY* PA* SC* TX*
52    1    IN*
50    2    CO*  CO*
48    1    OH

* = Lab Confimed

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