CDC: Flu season still hasn't reached peak

Tuesday, January 6th 2004, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Flu season has yet to reach its peak despite a drop-off in activity in some states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday.

At least five states _ Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Washington and West Virginia _ have been downgraded from widespread influenza activity but 42 others still are listed at the nation's highest flu outbreak level, the federal health agency said.

``If you look at overall data from nationwide surveillance, it doesn't look like it's peaked yet,'' said Dr. Scott Harper, a CDC flu expert. ``Nationwide influenza-like-illnesses are still on the rise.''

Child deaths from the flu also are increasing, Harper said. But the CDC has declined to release more information on the deaths, saying a report with more information will be released Thursday.

Previously, the CDC said 42 children have died from the flu. About 92 children typically die each flu season, the agency said.

Nationally, more people are visiting the doctor for influenza-like illnesses. About 9.4 percent of all outpatient visits surveyed by the federal health agency last week involved flu-like illnesses, which was higher than the 7.7 percent of health visits recorded in the previous week.

In addition, pneumonia and influenza accounted for 9 percent of deaths, up from 7.8 percent the previous week, in a survey of 122 U.S. cities.

Despite the national concern, a flu expert cautioned that the virus needs to be dealt with on a local or regional level.

``It doesn't strike the entire country simultaneously,'' said Dr. William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Schaffner said health officials are concerned that new outbreaks will spring up, even in areas with reduced flu activity.

``All of us are holding our breaths ... to make sure we don't get local resurgences,'' Schaffner said. ``We're not sure how long low levels of influenza will exist. It can linger and smolder around in a population for a while.''

The states listed as having widespread flu activity are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

City health departments in New York City and the District of Columbia also have reported widespread activity.

Eight states _ Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Washington, and West Virginia _ have reported regional activity.