Four influenza outbreaks have occurred since the official flu season ended earlier this summer. Last flu season the government stopped reporting the number of deaths from influenza to the public as it turned its attention to COVID-19. We know last season at least 4,400 adults and fourteen children died in Florida of influenza-associated illnesses. This year, Florida has seen 12,600 adults and eight children pass away from COVID-19 or COVID-19 related illnesses.
Based on National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) mortality surveillance data available on September 10, 2020, nationally 5.4% of the deaths occurring during the week ending September 5, 2020 were because of pneumonia and influenza. This percentage is below the epidemic threshold of 5.5%.
During the 2019-20 season, influenza A 2009 (H1N1) was the predominant strain detected, and it appears, so far this season, the same strain is leading illnesses. The good news is the percent of emergency department and urgent care center visits with a discharge diagnosis of influenza statewide stayed stable and was below the previous three-season average for this time.
Influenza (Flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but different viruses cause them. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a new coronavirus (called SARS-CoV-2) and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses. Because some symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone, and testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis. Flu and COVID-19 share many characteristics, but there are some key differences between the two. The CDC has developed a test that will check for A and B type seasonal flu viruses and SARS CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. U.S. public health laboratories will use this test.
During August 23 through September 5, 2020, the percent of specimens that tested positive for rhinovirus (RSV) increased and were higher than other respiratory viruses under surveillance.
Four of Florida’s five regions are in RSV season. Florida’s RSV season is longer than the rest of the nation and has distinct regional patterns. The determination of unique seasonal and geographic trends of RSV activity in Florida has important implications for prescribing patterns for starting prophylaxis to children at high-risk for complications for RSV infection. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends preapproval for prophylactic treatment be made based on state surveillance data.
The percent of specimens testing positive for rhinovirus increased and were higher than other respiratory viruses under surveillance. Of note, they have observed a significant decrease in the volume of testing in previous weeks.