Written by By Rachel Levenson, CNN
CNN’s Nic Robertson takes a deeper look at the scientific research behind the Zika virus with Doctors Without Borders.
The rate of serious complications is on the rise for patients being treated for flu, according to U.S. health officials, although they expressed hope Thursday that the rate of hospitalizations and deaths will decrease soon.
Of the more than 20,000 patients seen at 27 US hospitals at the beginning of 2017, more than 4,400 had to be admitted or transferred to another facility, according to a new report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials are concerned by the fast-growing number of hospitalizations and the infections in newborns, said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield.
“All together, we know that influenza causes 1.6 million hospitalizations and half a million deaths each year in the United States,” Redfield said.
Influenza complications continue to affect the elderly, newborns and patients with heart conditions, including heart attack and angina, according to the CDC.
“The rate of hospitalizations due to flu shots and administration of influenza vaccines has increased the burden of flu among pregnant women and their newborn infants. This situation will require action,” Dr. Jay Varma, deputy director of the CDC’s Office of Viral Diseases, said Thursday.
Overall, flu is already affecting more than 100 million people worldwide and posing major public health challenges in the US, especially among vulnerable populations, the CDC said.
Among the reported flu-related deaths and hospitalizations, pneumonia and influenza combined have caused the most serious complications, which makes these cases more serious to the patient, but less likely to be fatal.
The CDC recommended that everyone 6 months or older receive a flu vaccine. The vaccine will be available through at least October this year, depending on availability.
“The most important step to keep ourselves healthy is to get a flu shot,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “It’s very important to get a flu shot, and we expect that once we get the flu vaccine into the hands of all of our individual citizens, we’re going to see fewer severe complications,” he said.
Among all the patients treated for influenza last year, about 12% had a serious complication that required hospitalization. The number of cases was significantly higher among patients being treated for influenza, which was 15% of those seeing a doctor, compared with 6% of those seen at a clinic or hospital.
Among those hospitalized, 79% were receiving anti-viral drugs for their illness, compared with 85% of those who didn’t need hospitalization. The prevalence of the drugs was low among patients treated in emergency departments but increasing in clinics and hospitals.
Among infected infants, the rate of hospitalizations was nearly double for those exposed to low-dose vials of influenza vaccine than for those treated with influenza-conjugated vaccines, CDC officials said.
Vavavirus hospitalizations were particularly high among patients 60 and older, according to the CDC. Among this age group, there were 2.7 hospitalizations per 100,000, which is higher than that for any other age group. Among all the patients, rates of pneumonia and flu complicated by a flu-related hospitalization were greater for patients aged 60 and older than those 18 to 64.
Overall, hospitalizations during the 2017-18 flu season increased in the US by 1% over last year, from 168,000 to 180,000, according to the CDC. Hospitalizations in children under age 5 increased by 40%, from 3,000 to 4,000.
“The CDC is reporting that there are additional states with widespread flu activity in addition to California, Texas, Florida, Maryland, New York, New Jersey, Washington and Minnesota. Other states with ongoing flu activity are Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia,” the agency said in a release.