States Grapple With Flu Outbreaks
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data last month showing that the flu is now widespread across the United States, although it’s unclear if this season will prove worse than prior years.
Flu is considered one of the nation’s leading causes of death when it comes to infectious diseases, killing about 24,000 people annually. Hospitalization rates are similar to the difficult flu season of two years ago, which also was dominated by a similar flu virus. Health officials are urging medical professionals to treat flu patients with antiviral medications designed to shorten the duration of the flu in a patient.
The CDC also has released a new Toolkit for Long-Term Care Employers in collaboration with the Health and Human Services Department’s National Vaccine Program Office, as a guide to increasing flu vaccination among health care professionals in long-term care settings.
States are seeing a higher number of flu cases this season, including in senior living communities. The most recent data show flu outbreaks reported in 68 assisted living communities in Colorado, the highest number since Colorado health officials started tracking communities in the 2004-2005 season. "This is the highest number of long-term-care outbreaks reported, the highest one we have seen," Dr. Wendy Bamberg, a medical epidemiologist with the state Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post.
There have been several reported cases of assisted living communities going into lockdown mode due to a flu outbreak. For example, Misty Meadows in Metropolis, Illinois, reported more than 10 residents and employees have tested positive for the flu with five residents in the hospital. Kane County, Illinois, has reported outbreaks at five assisted living communities.
The Michigan Department of Community Health has 182 confirmed cases of the flu in the state, according to Fox News. In West Virginia and Georgia, schools were closed for several days in December due to teachers and children hit with the flu.
The Indiana State Department of Health has reported 36 flu-related deaths this season and 34 of those were people 65 years or older. New York’s tally of lab-confirmed cases was nearly 4,000 as of Dec. 27, nearly three times the number of cases reported statewide for the same period of 2013.