Sick and tired of the flu? The CDC has some good news
April 25, 2019; 4:04 PM
For the first time since the week before Thanksgiving 2018, flu activity in the U.S. is below normal. That means the record-setting flu season is finally over.
Levels of influenza-like illness (ILI) in the United States were at or above baseline for 21 straight weeks, the longest above-baseline flu season since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) started keeping such comparable records in 2007-08. (Prior to that year, the CDC did not calculate a national baseline.)
But according to a CDC report that will be issued Friday, "surveillance shows the proportion of outpatient visits for ILI decreased to 2.1 percent, which is below the national baseline of 2.2 percent."
The record streak began the week of November 24, 2018 and ended with the week ending April 20, 2019. The flu season typically begins in October and lasts well into March.
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At least 6,748 deaths have been attributed to the flu since October 1, 2018, according to the CDC's preliminary numbers. And the CDC estimated an overall rate of 62.3 flu-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the U.S. between October 1, 2018 and April 13, 2019. Over a similar time period covering 2017 and 2018 for last flu season, 14,977 deaths were blamed on the flu. This year's figures will likely be adjusted in the future.
"AccuWeather believes the weather and the sunshine intensity is an important factor in the flu season; there is no flu to speak of in the summer because the sun is strong and the weather is warm," the company's founder and CEO Dr. Joel N. Myers said.
There is also no real flu season in the tropics. Flu viruses are more stable in cold air and the low humidity allows the virus particles to remain in the air, according to Peter Palese, who was the lead author on a key flu study in 2007. The viruses float in the air in small respiratory droplets; when the air is humid, those droplets absorb water, grow larger and fall to the ground.