Flu Shot

A nurse administers a flu shot.

More people are being hospitalized due to influenza so far in the 2019-2020 flu season than in the previous year.

Between Jan. 18 and Jan. 25, there were 238 hospitalizations for influenza, with the majority of patients 25 and older. The number is higher than during the same period last flu season, said state health department spokeswoman Maureen Regan.

There have been 24,865 confirmed cases of the flu, as of Feb. 1. The Maryland Department of Health releases a weekly flu index report. The most recent is from Feb. 1.

The flu, at this point, is considered widespread with a high level of activity. While the flu in Maryland has been predominantly Type B, Feb. 1 marks the first week where clinical tests indicate the flu is evenly split between Type A and B strains.

“Although it has been unusual to observe an influenza B/Victoria predominant season, this season’s severity indicators do not appear to be elevated (as of week ending Jan. 25),” Regan said in an email.

Flu seasons historically start with predominantly Type A flu strains and end with Type B ones. But this year, Type B started out as the predominant flu, with Type A, specifically Type A H1N1pdm09, beginning to rise. Both Type B/Victoria and Type A H1N1pdm09 are covered by the season’s flu vaccine, Regan said.

The health department does not have any information to compare the H1N1pdm09 strain seen in the current flu season to that of the H1N1 strain a couple of years ago, Regan said. Epidemiologists with the health department were unavailable for comment.

Twenty-five people have died from the flu, with three of deaths those of children, according to the weekly flu index report. Lochlin DeSantis, a 5-year-old boy died from flu-related sepsis in Frederick County, but it is unclear if his death is included in the published statistics.

Regan said in an email that if someone died from flu-related sepsis, the flu would be listed as the underlying cause of death with sepsis labeled as the intermediate or immediate cause of death.

However, Regan could not confirm if Lochlin’s death is one of the three pediatric deaths as the health department does not disclose the location of pediatric flu deaths due to privacy concerns.

Regan also could not disclose how many cases of flu seen in Frederick County, citing privacy concerns.

“In a single flu season, there may be thousands of cases, and at certain points in the season activity may be reported as ‘high’ or ‘widespread’ statewide — but in counties where there is less population density, for example, there may be greater potential to identify a patient based on surveillance sources or information collected/provided,” Regan said in the email.

Follow Heather Mongilio on Twitter: @HMongilio.

Heather Mongilio is the health and Fort Detrick reporter for the Frederick News-Post. She can be reached at hmongilio@newspost.com.

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