The 2012/2013 flu epidemic continues in U.S. On a hopeful note, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that it is possible that some areas of the country have peaked, but other parts of the country are still experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illnesses. It is still too early to tell if the country is on the down hill slide of this year’s severe flu season, but time will tell.
“During week 6 (February 3 – 9, 2013), influenza activity remained elevated in the United States, but decreased in most areas.” – CDC
About 8.3 percent of all deaths nationwide in the US were due to the flu and pneumonia for the week ended Jan. 12, more than the 7.3 percent level for an epidemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About 90 percent of those deaths are people older than age 65, who are being hit particularly hard by this year’s flu strain, the Atlanta-based agency said.
The flu season, which has now been at epidemic levels for two straight weeks, may result in 36,000 deaths, said William Schaffner, chairman of the department of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee. Infections will likely persist through February and March, though cases may have peaked in some regions, including the East Coast and Southeast, he said.
Meanwhile, CVS Caremark Corp. (CVS) and Rite Aid Corp. (RAD), two of the largest U.S. drugstore chains, said they are working to restock flu vaccines as a rush of consumers seeking the immunization depletes supply.
Possibly helping this supply problem was the FDA’s approval Jan. 16 of one company’s more efficient way to make the flu vaccine, which typically takes about six months to produce. Protein Sciences Corp., based in Meriden, Connecticut, won clearance for FluBlok, which the closely held company said can be produced in less than two months by inserting flu genes into an insect virus and then growing the active protein for the immunization.
The product is intended to help move away from the 50-year- old technique of growing the vaccine in chicken eggs, a process that has been blamed for delays in reacting to unanticipated flu outbreaks.
Health officials were caught off-guard last month when the flu season started earlier than in past years. Among this season’s deaths, 29 have been children. There were nine pediatric deaths in the week ended Jan. 12, a 45 percent increase from the previous week, according to the CDC.
Source: Centers of Disease Control and prevention (CDC), Bloomberg