Ocean County Ranks Fourth in Season’s Flu Cases

Jan 25, 2017

Seasonal influenza, which came into the 2016-17 season like a lamb, is starting to look more like a lion. If you didn’t get a flu shot this season, you might want to start taking standard precautions such as washing your hands, staying away from people who are coughing or sneezing, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

Indeed, you might want to reconsider getting a flu shot, which are widely available at drug stores, the offices of healthcare providers, and even some remaining Ocean County Health Department clinics, with times and places found online at ochd.org. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest report on seasonal flu activity in the U.S. paints a busy picture.

“According to the FluView report for the week ending January 14, 2017, flu activity continues to increase in the United States. The proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been at or above the national baseline for five consecutive weeks so far this season (October to May) and the number of states reporting widespread flu activity increased from 21 states to 29 states. Also, CDC reported two additional flu-associated pediatric deaths for the 2016-2017 season (the total is now five). … Flu activity is expected to continue over the coming weeks. CDC recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months of age or older. Anyone who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should get vaccinated now.

“For the week ending January 14,” continued the CDC report, “the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like-illness increased to 3.3 percent. All ten regions reported ILI at or above 2.2 percent.”

The worst may be yet to come. In the 34-year period between the 1982-83 and 2015-16 flu seasons, the peak month – the month with the highest percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza virus – was most often February (14), followed by December (7) and March (6).

The flu is already hitting New Jersey hard this season. The CDC report indicated that New York City and six states experienced “high ILI activity.” New Jersey, along with Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee, was on that list. Puerto Rico and eight states reported moderate ILI activity. Widespread influenza activity was reported by 29 states.

The New Jersey Department of Health Communicable Disease Service reported that the state activity level for the week ending Jan. 14 had reached high, the highest of three reported levels. It had been moderate the week before. All five regions of the state – the northwest, northeast, central west, central east and south – had a high level of activity. Ocean County has had 198 cases of laboratory-confirmed seasonal flu this season, the fourth most among New Jersey’s 21 counties.

Since the beginning of the flu season there have been 2,864 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in the U.S., a rate of 10.2 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.

To repeat, flu shots are highly recommended for everybody over the age of six months. But, as usual, the old and young are the most threatened.

“The highest hospitalization rates,” said the CDC report, “are among people 65 years and older (47.3 per 100,000), followed by adults 50-64 years (10.1 per 100,000) and children younger than 5 years (6.8 per 100,000).

— Rick Mellerup


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