by KATE EVANS
While influenza activity has peaked and has been decreasing across the United States, health officials are cautioning that the flu is still around. Flu activity level is still up nationwide, with more cases of Influenza B.
Dr. Gerald Bechamps, Vice-President of Medical Affairs for War Memorial Hospital and Hampshire Memorial Hospital, said on Monday that flu activity here was quite high in mid-February and peaked then, tapering off some in March.
Bechamps said he wasn’t hearing that area flu activity levels were rising again. Both Influenza A and Influenza B strains are circulating.
The predominant strain of flu for the season has been Influenza A (H3) virus strains, but Influenza B viruses have been more frequently reported in recent weeks and the proportion of Influenza A cases have declined, according to last Friday’s CDC influenza report.
Puerto Rico and 16 states including Maryland, Virginia, New York and Ohio reported widespread influenza activity during the week ending March 24. Regional influenza activity was reported by 22 states including Pennsylvania, New Jersey and South Carolina. Local flu activity was reported in the District of Columbia and eight states including West Virginia and North Carolina. Sporadic flu activity was seen in four states.
A total of 27,438 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between October 1, 2017 and March 24, 2018. More than 76% of those hospitalizations were associated with the Influenza A virus. The highest rate of hospitalization was among adults age 65 and older.
Four flu-associated pediatric deaths were reported in the week ending March 24, bringing the total of pediatric deaths for the season to 137.
Dr. Bechamps said that influenza-like illness activity had still not dropped below the target national baseline level of 2.2%. Valley Health System hospitals still have visiting restrictions, including War Memorial Hospital and Hampshire Memorial Hospital.
Bechamps noted that the majority of individuals that are getting the flu were not immunized. Some may get Influenza B after having Influenza A since they are different flu strains, but it’s not common.
Bechamps said that the flu normally peaks in February or March and that cases of flu should be declining more as kids get outside more as the weather warms up and have less contact inside the classroom. Cases of the flu dropped significantly in West Virginia during the teacher’s strike when kids were out of school.
School officials could not be reached on Monday for flu and illness reports as schools were closed for spring break.