Region's influenza cases continue to increase

With flu cases increasing and the first deaths reported, health officials are urging people to get their vaccines and prevent the spread of influenza. (Getty Images/iStockphoto/Milan Ivosevic)

Influenza activity increased again in the latest flu report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with all states except Hawaii reporting widespread activity.

For the week ending Jan. 6, the proportion of people seeking medical treatment for influenza-like illness in the United States was 5.8 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent, according to the CDC report.

Erlanger Health System continues to see a significant rise in flu cases, with 224 patients treated for flu-like symptoms last week - a 44 percent increase over the previous week's 156 cases - a news release from hospital officials stated Tuesday.

"Medical specialists continue to urge area residents who have not been vaccinated to do so," the release stated. "According to the CDC, flu activity often peaks between December and February and can last into May."

So far this season, Erlanger hospitals have seen 546 suspected flu patients, compared to 84 patients at this same time last year.

The predominant strain of the virus thus far, H3N2, is thought to be less controlled by vaccination and is associated with more hospitalizations and deaths in older adults and young children, who are at greater risk of developing complications from flu.

Current hospitalization rates for the virus are highest among people 65 years and older, followed by adults aged 50 to 64 and children younger than 5, with 20 flu-related pediatric deaths reported to the CDC, so far.

Officials are reminding providers and the public about the importance of antiviral medications for treatment of influenza, particularly in high risk individuals.

Contact staff writer Elizabeth Fite at or 423-757-6673.