CDC Warns Flu Subsiding, but Still Affecting Elderly
Flu season is finally coming to a close in the U.S. But don't put away your tissues just yet; there are still plenty of cases of influenza going around and it's dangerous--especially to the elderly.
During the week of Feb. 9, flu activity fell drastically. However, 11 states are still experiencing high levels while 31 states report that there is still widespread activity. That's still down from the 38 states that reported in the week before, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This year's flu season was particularly nasty. It started early and was moderately severe--five children died of the flu just last week, bringing the total number of death's this season to 64. It began around Christmas, which is about a month earlier than usual; fortunately, the flu season is now also ending earlier than usual.
In order to determine when a flu season is waning, the CDC examines doctor visits for flu-like illnesses. When more than 2.2 percent of all visits to the doctor nationwide are for such illnesses, the organization marks it as the official start of the flu season. In non-flu months, only about 1 percent of visits are for flu-like illnesses.
Unfortunately, we're not quite out of the woods yet. Last week, 3.2 percent of doctor visits were for these types of illnesses, though that's down from the 4.2 percent the week before. During epidemic levels when the east coast in particular was receiving the most cases, the rate was 5.6 percent.
The CDC cautions that the elderly should continue to take precautions. Those who are 65 and older continue to account for more than half of all hospitalizations. So far, nearly 9,000 people have been hospitalized with the flu and its complications. Those at risk for complications, which include people with other health issues, those who are pregnant, young children and the elderly, should seek treatment early if they develop flu-like symptoms.