February 10, 2017
2 min read

CDC reports pneumonia, influenza mortality rate hits epidemic threshold

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The mortality rate for pneumonia and influenza in the United States was slightly above the epidemic threshold during the week ending Jan. 7, according to CDC’s FluView.

Data showed that 7.4% of deaths were caused by pneumonia or influenza, exceeding the 7.3% epidemic threshold based on the National Center for Health Statistics Mortality Surveillance System.

Thomas Kerkering
Thomas M. Kerkering

Thomas M. Kerkering, MD, professor of internal medicine at the Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine and section chair of infectious diseases at Carilion Clinic, however, is urging the local public in Virginia to use caution when considering these statistics.

“The local media picked up on the word ‘epidemic’ and that is not what we are currently seeing in our region,” he told Infectious Disease News.

In a press release, Kerkering said that “‘epidemic’ is hyperbole,” and “means seeing more than the normal baseline for this time of year.”

The CDC reported that the proportion of outpatient visits for an influenza-like illness (ILI) — defined as an elevated temperature (100°F or greater) and cough and/or sore throat — was above the national baseline of 2.2%. During the week of Jan. 22 to Jan. 28, 3.9% of patient visits identified through the U.S. Outpatient Influenza-like Illness Surveillance Network were due to ILIs. The percentage of visits for ILIs on a regional level ranged from 2.2% to 6.9%. High ILI activity was reported in 15 states, including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee and Wyoming.

“Flu is here in the area and we’re seeing it,” Kerkering told Infectious Disease News. “In terms of numbers of cases of influenza, it’s not any different than previous years in our region.”

According to data from the Influenza Hospitalization Surveillance Network, which covers counties in California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Tennessee and Utah, the overall hospitalization rate for influenza was 20.3 per 100,000 population from Oct. 1 to Jan. 28. So far, 15 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have occurred this season, the CDC report said.

As previously reported, influenza A (H3N2) is the predominate strain circulating in the United States. As of Jan. 28, test results from public health laboratories revealed that influenza A was detected in 93.1% of 12, 967 positive specimens. Among them, 95.7% were subtype H3.

Kerkering said the influenza vaccine recommended for the 2016 to 2017 season appears to be a close match to the circulating viruses, and he recommends people to get vaccinated. – by Stephanie Viguers


CDC. Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report. 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/ Accessed February 9, 2017.

Disclosure: Kerkering reports no relevant financial disclosures.