The influenza H1N1 has hit hard in Houston, Texas, where 6 have been killed with more than 12 remaining in critical condition. Harris County Health Department (HCHD) has claimed that recently three middle-aged men died of the same strain as 2009 H1N1 pandemic. HCHD is not the only reports of influenza deaths, eight other regional hospitals suspect at least nine others have also died from the H1N1 strain.
On Friday, the Texas Public Health Association urged all residents of Texas, age six months or over, to get vaccinated with the influenza vaccine. The announcement came out in an influenza health alert that requested people get vaccinated as soon as possible because the vaccine can take up to two weeks to start being effective.
H1N1 is just one of the influenzas that are included in this year’s vaccine, and most of the current influenza sicknesses in Texas are of the H1N1 strain. Anyone that starts to experience flu-like symptoms is asked to seek medical attention within the first 48-hour period. Patients are being prescribed Tamiflu to help battle the illness.
The National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System and the U.S. World Health Organization tested 7,294 specimens in the nation-wide tests for the week of December 8-14, 2013. The collaborating labs confirmed that 17.8 percent of the specimens tested positive to be influenza. One pediatric death was also reported to be influenza-associated.
The Texas reports of six being killed and more than a dozen remaining critical are not the only reports of high influenza-like illnesses in the U.S. Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama are also being hit hard by influenza this year, while Oklahoma reported only a moderate number of flu-like illnesses. States that reported having a low number of flu-like illnesses are: Illinois, Nevada, Missouri, Utah, New York, and Virginia.
Minimal influenza activity was reported from 37 states. Texas, New York, Louisiana, and Alabama were the four states that reported widespread flu activity. Regional influenza reports came out of 19 separate states while 17 states reported local flu cases. West Virginia, North and South Dakota, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Delaware reported sporadic flu-like activity. Only one state recorded no influenza activity at all, Vermont.
The extremely contagious influenza strain attacks the upper respiratory system and can cause other serious health problems throughout the entire world. Influenza season begins in October of every year and lasts through the winter season until the end of May. In the U.S., January or February can be the peak months for the highest number of influenza illnesses. Epidemic levels of the flu were reported during the 2012-2013 flu season.
Influenza and pneumonia mortality rates are tracked by health officials using two systems. They are the Influenza-Associated Pediatric Mortality Reporting System and the 122 Cities Mortality Reporting System. The systems report on the number of weekly death certificates issued listing influenza or pneumonia as the cause of death, and they are filed by age group. The percentage of influenza and pneumonia deaths is then compared to seasonal baselines.
In the week that Texas reported six deaths and more than twelve in critical condition, influenza was reported to have killed 6.6 percent of all deaths. This barely remains below the influenza epidemic threshold of 6.8 percent.
By Brent Matsalla