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Many localities haven’t yet felt the full brunt of influenza season.
While many public health departments around the nation have been reporting a slow start to the flu season, they know they’re not out of the woods by a long shot.
"We've had some influenza in the community, and we have treated some patients in the emergency department, as well as in-patients with influenza, but not by the sheer numbers that we've seen in years past," Dr. Thomas Tobin, chief medical officer at Community Hospital in Grand Junction, Colorado, told WesternSlopeNow.com in an interview, noting that the peak happens sometimes between December and February. "Sometimes it hits a little later in January or February, so not sure what to make of it currently," he said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that for the week ending Dec. 29, New York City and 19 states, including Colorado and most of the Sun Belt, were experiencing high influenza-like illness, or ILI. States in the Pacific Northwest and northern Plains were showing minimal ILI activity.
The Walgreens Flu Index, using statistics current through Dec. 29, showed the Top 10 designated market areas with high levels of influenza activity concentrated in Alabama, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas and Tennessee.
That includes Lincoln and Kearney-Hastings in Nebraska (No. 1); El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico (No. 2); Harlingen-Weslaco-Brownsville-McAllen, Texas (No. 3); Omaha, Nebraska (No. 4); and Montgomery-Selma, Alabama (No. 5).
The Walgreens Flu Index uses retail prescription data from Walgreens locations across the nation, looking specifically at antiviral medications used to treat the flu influenza.
In southern Georgia, health officials have warned that they’re expecting to see an uptick in flu activity with schools back in session after the holidays.
“With schools in our 10-county area returning to school next week, we expect flu activity to increase,” district epidemiologist Kenneth Lowery told the Valdosta Daily Times. “We encourage everyone to get the flu vaccine that has not already, and to take extra precautions against spreading the illness including staying home when sick.”
Massachusetts state health officials, according to MassLive, have confirmed nearly 2,200 flu cases thus far this season, which starts in October. There were nearly 1,300 confirmed cases at this point last year.
As of October, at least 42 people have died of flu complications in California. According to the CDC, at least 13 children across the nation have died from flu complications.
Michael Grass is Executive Editor of Route Fifty and is based in Seattle.