Coronavirus Is Bad but US Flu’s New Numbers Still Far Worse

What your doctor is reading on

FEBRUARY 3, 2020 — After falling slightly around the winter holidays, influenza activity has now risen for 2 consecutive weeks, according to a January 31 report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

At a time when many are rightly concerned about the novel coronavirus (2019nCoV) — of which there are 11 confirmed cases in the United States as of Monday — the CDC is also warning citizens not to drop their guard about influenza, which has caused at least 19 million illnesses, 180,000 hospitalizations, and 10,000 deaths so far this season.

Nationwide, during the week ending January 25 (week 4), 5.7% of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness activity were reported, up from 5.1% the week before and above the national baseline of 2.4%. Regionally, this percentage ranged from 4.1% to 7.7% and visits were above region-specific baselines in all regions.

Activity was high in the District of Columbia, New York City, Puerto Rico, and 41 states — an increase from 35 the week before. Activity was moderate in seven states. There were insufficient data to calculate activity from the US Virgin Islands and two states (Delaware and Idaho).

Geographically, influenza activity was widespread in Puerto Rico and 49 states, regional in Hawaii, local in the District of Columbia, and sporadic in the US Virgin Islands. Guam did not report on activity.

Between Oct. 1, 2019 and Jan. 25, 2020, 8633 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported. Of those, 5173 (59.9%) were linked to influenza A virus, 3401 (39.4%) to influenza B virus, 27 (0.3%) to influenza A and influenza B virus co-infection, and 32 (0.4%) to influenza virus for which type was undetermined.

Among viruses for which influenza A virus subtype was available, 1080 (91.1%) were A(H1N1)pdm09 virus and 106 (8.9%) were A(H3N2).

Overall, the cumulative hospitalization rate was 29.7 per 100,000 population, “similar to what has been seen during recent previous influenza seasons at this time of year,” the CDC says in the report. However, the CDC says rates in children and young adults are higher than those seen at this time during recent seasons.

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