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US Flu Hospitalization Rates Raise Concerns
Recombinomics Commentary 19:00
January 18, 2013

Week 2 FluView Hospitaliza Rates

The above graph from the CDC week 2 FluView, coupled with the large spike in the Pneumonia and Influenza Death Rate (8.3% compared to 7.3% in week 1) were the chief drivers of today’s hastily called CDC flu telebriefing.  The briefing noted that the current flu season was becoming increasingly severe as the large number of cases has now produced a spike in hospitalizations and deaths.  The main target population was those over 65, which produced the alarming curve above.

The slope and amplitude are both very high, and the spike is very early in the flu season.  Last year, which was mild, had few hospitalized cases in week 2, raising concerns that the levels displayed above will continue to rise.

The large number of hospitalizations represented in the above graph was clearly seen in recent reports for Pennsylvania and Minnesota.  Pennsylvania reported 18 flu deaths for week 1 as well as week 2 raising the season total to 40.  Minnesota reported 23 deaths in week1 and 33 deaths in week 2 for a season total of 60.  Both states reported high levels of hospitalization for each week, where were represented in part in the above curve, since both states noted that the hospitalizations and deaths were primarily due to H3N2 targeting of an elderly population.

The telebriefing gave updates on vaccine supplies as well as antiviral supplies.  Manufacturers are expected to produce 145 million doses (and 129 million has been distributed at this time) for this season, and the FDA has given approval for the distribution of Tamiflu with outdate package inserts (the newer inserts have updated instructions for reformulating the adult capsules for use in liquid for children under the age of one – the drug in the capsules is not out of date, but without the waiver the drugs would have had to be repackaged with updated instructions in the package inserts). 

The telebriefing also noted absence of earlier antiviral treatment in many of the hospitalized patients and encouraged physicians to use antivirals earlier asnd more frequently (including use for cases that were symptomatic but had not been tested for influenza or had a negative rapid test).

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