flu update

Photo by Unsplash

Less aggressive ‘Type B’ is most common influenza strain here

Achoo! Peak flu season is still a few weeks away, but area doctors are already seeing an increase in patients testing positive for Type B.

“We’re seeing a good bit of Type B flu, and it has hit earlier than the last few years. It’s not as severe an illness as Type A, but still makes you feel lousy,” says Dr. Brent Waters of South Georgia Physicians Group in Blackshear.

School absences are reportedly on par with this time last year.

“So far absences have been about what they have been at this point in the season ... still have a way to go though,” says Dr. Kevin Smith, school superintendent.

Memorial Satilla Health physicians report flu activity picked up in early September, but flu symptoms to date are less severe than last year.

The hospital lab has conducted 4,196 tests since January of this year. Nearly 600 were positive for flu. That’s an increase of approximately 50 flu cases over last year for the same time period.

From January - November 2018 the hospital conducted 3,506 flu tests and 550 of those were positive.

The Dept. of Public Health’s (DPH) weekly influenza report confirms the local trend towards an early flu season.

According to the most recent DPH report, flu activity is high in the state right now. Last year this time flu activity was moderate.

And, flu has already spread regionally this season, meaning at least two, but less than half the regions in the state have reported influenza outbreaks or an increase in influenza-like illness (ILI). Last year geographic spread was local – confined to a single region in the state – at this time.

(Outbreaks must be reported in at least half of the state’s regions before a widespread classification is issued.)

Earlier this month outpatient visits for ILI across the state were nearly double the regional baseline at 4.59 percent.

The local prevalence of Type B flu over Type A holds true with Center for Disease Control (CDC) data, too. According to the CDC, influenza B/Victoria viruses have been reported more frequently than other influenza viruses this season across the nation.

The most recent CDC report shows 68.3 percent of flu cases  are Type B while 31.7 are Type A.

No flu-related deaths have been reported in Georgia. Only one outbreak is recorded to date.

Nationally, 393 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between October 1 – November 16. The highest rate of hospitalization was among adults ages 65+, followed by children ages 0-4. Hospitalization rates are similar to what has been seen at this time during other recent seasons, CDC officials say. Most individuals hospitalized for influenza test positive for Type A.