THE FLU: CDC Releases Numbers for Recent Outbreak
New strains of the flu virus or strains not covered under this year's vaccine are not the cause of the recent flu epidemic, according to a CDC report released last Friday. Of virus samples gathered during the last two weeks of December, 99% fell into the broad family of influenza A -- the strain responsible for nearly all recent flu cases in the U.S. and Europe. And 97% of samples collected since Oct. 1 are related closely to the strain of influenza A used in this winter's vaccine, suggesting that individuals who received the vaccine should be well protected against the virus. Ten percent of young people and 30% or more of the elderly, however, fail to get protection from the flu vaccine, hampering its efficacy. Nationwide, 6% of physician visits during the last week of December were prompted by flu-like symptoms, compared with 3% two weeks earlier. In some parts of the Southwest, 15% of visits were flu-related. The CDC also released influenza or pneumonia morbidity for the final week of December, with the death rate at 8.4% compared with 7.8% two weeks earlier. The CDC report noted that many of the symptoms of respiratory illness were attributed to illnesses other than the influenza virus. Of the roughly 4,700 throat samples taken and tested in labs in the United States and Europe, only 31% revealed influenza. Larry Anderson, head of the respiratory and enteric viruses branch of the CDC, said that there was no evidence suggesting that any of the other viruses that cause flu-like illnesses are occurring with unusual or elevated frequency (Brown, Washington Post, 1/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.