(Bloomberg) — Family gatherings helped spread influenza during the 2013 holiday season, as the pace of flu reports jumped at year end, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
About 4.3 percent of doctor visits during the week ended Dec. 28 were for complaints of flu-like symptoms such as fever, coughs and sore throats, more than double the national baseline of 2 percent, and a 50 percent increase from the week earlier, the CDC said.
While the outbreak is mimicking last year’s fast and intense season, though delayed by a few weeks, the illness is hitting hardest in a different group of patients.
“Normally we think of elderly people, 65 years of age and older” as those most affected by influenza, said Michael Jhung, a medical epidemiologist for the CDC in Atlanta. “This year, young- and middle-aged adults are being hit hard by flu. People aren’t expecting to hear about severely ill young- and middle-aged adults.”
Twenty states, composed of most of the southern U.S. from North Carolina to Nevada, are reporting widespread influenza activity, with eight experiencing moderate levels.
Sixteen states, including all of New England and California, say they have minimal influenza activity. Deaths from pneumonia and influenza remained below baseline levels nationwide, with six children dying from flu-related complications so far this season, the CDC reported.
The most widely circulating virus seen so far this season is H1N1, known as swine flu when it first came to prominence in 2009 and now considered a routine part of influenza activity, Jhung said.