Flu activity remained elevated for the 2018-2019 flu season, but most influenza indicators were down sharply from last year’s high-severity flu season, according to the most recent CDC data.
Notably, in the comparable report a year ago the CDC described influenza activity as “increased,” which was not a word used in the weekly FluView tracking data for the week ending January 5 this year.
Influenza activity was “widespread” in 30 states — a substantial decline from year-ago data from the week ending January 6, 2018 when 49 states had widespread flu activity.
Pneumonia and influenza mortality was 6.4% for the week ending December 29, 2018, which was below the system-specific epidemic threshold. By contrast, year-ago data showed pneumonia and influenza mortality was 7.0% — already hitting the system-specific epidemic threshold.
There were three influenza-related pediatric deaths reported for the week ending January 5, bringing the 2018-2019 flu season total to 16 — a sharp drop from a year ago when seven deaths were reported for the comparable week, and there had already been 20 deaths during the 2017-2018 flu season.
For the week ending January 5, the cumulative rate stood at 9.1 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000, compared with 22.7 per 100,000 a year ago.
Percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illnesses declined from 4.0% the previous week to 3.5%, which remained above the national baseline of 2.2%. Last year at this time, the proportion of outpatient visits for flu-like illness was 5.8%.
For the first time ever, the CDC provided cumulative “in-season estimates” about flu illnesses, medical visits, and hospitalizations. In a press release, the CDC said an estimated 6.2 million to 7.3 million people have been sick with the flu this season, and up to half of those have sought medical care for flu. About 70,000 to 84,000 people have been hospitalized with the flu, the agency said.