CDC: Mil­lions sick­ened with flu this sea­son

Chicago Tribune (Sunday) - - CHICAGOLAND - By Kate Thayer [email protected]­ Twit­ter @kn­thayer

More than 6 mil­lion peo­ple have been sick with in­fluenza this sea­son, ac­cord­ing to data re­leased Fri­day by the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion, but Illi­nois num­bers show this sea­son, so far, hasn’t been as se­vere as last year’s.

The CDC es­ti­mates be­tween 6.2 mil­lion and 7.3 mil­lion peo­ple across the coun­try have been in­fected with the flu — de­fined as hav­ing a high fever, sore throat and other symp­toms. Of those sick­ened, be­tween 2.9 mil­lion and 3.5 mil­lion vis­ited a doc­tor, and an es­ti­mated 69,000 to 83,500 were hos­pi­tal­ized, ac­cord­ing to the CDC’s re­port. Those num­bers are based on data from about 8.5 per­cent of the U.S. pop­u­la­tion, or about 27 mil­lion peo­ple.

This year, the CDC will track the flu dur­ing the course of the sea­son, which be­gan in Oc­to­ber. Fri­day’s re­port in­cludes ill­nesses con­tracted since the start of the sea­son through Jan. 5 and will be up­dated each week. In pre­vi­ous years, the CDC has is­sued such data at the end of the sea­son. How­ever, the re­port did not pro­vide data on pe­di­atric deaths from in­fluenza, which is an­other marker that health of­fi­cials track.

In Illi­nois, the most re­cent data (which also goes through Jan. 5) shows 163 peo­ple have been hos­pi­tal­ized for in­fluenza this sea­son, and one child has died, ac­cord­ing to the Illi­nois Depart­ment of Pub­lic Health. Only child deaths are re­ported.

The state also tracks peo­ple vis­it­ing doc­tor’s of­fices and clin­ics at sites through­out the state to record how many re­port in­fluen­za­like symp­toms. Typ­i­cally, at any point in the year, about 1.8 per­cent of pa­tients will re­port those symp­toms, said IDPH spokes­woman Me­laney Arnold. Last week that num­ber was 2.93 per­cent.

In Illi­nois, re­ported in­fluenza ill­nesses for this year are trend­ing far below last year, when flu­like ill­nesses peaked in mid- to late De­cem­ber with more than 6 per­cent of pa­tients vis­it­ing physi­cians with those symp­toms, Arnold said.

The CDC es­ti­mates about 49 mil­lion peo­ple were sick­ened with flu last sea­son, deemed the dead­li­est in decades, in­clud­ing 960,000 peo­ple who were hos­pi­tal­ized. And nearly 80,000 died, in­clud­ing 180 chil­dren, ac­cord­ing to the CDC.

Be­cause the sea­son can last into April and even as late as May, Arnold and the CDC’s re­cent re­port urge peo­ple to get im­mu­nized if they haven’t al­ready done so.

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