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Current Trends Influenza Update -- United States

Influenza activity in the 1981-1982 influenza season continues to be at a relatively low level. Isolations of influenza type B virus have been reported by 23 states (including the first reports this season from Alaska, Maryland, Missouri, and Oklahoma); 8 of these states have also reported isolating type A(H1N1) virus, and 1 state, New Jersey, has reported isolating type A(H1N1) virus only (Figure 4). From October 1981 through February 1982, the total number of viruses isolated by laboratories participating in the nationwide reporting system was about 200. This compared with about 1,500 isolates reported by the participating laboratories in the United States in each of the 3 preceding winters, reflecting the generally low levels of morbidity throughout the country this winter.

The actual extent of virus transmission may not be fully indicated by nationwide laboratory reports in the absence of major outbreaks which cause concern to public health authorities and physicians. Thus, in Houston, Texas, where all patients with acute febrile respiratory illness are cultured for viral isolates when seen by a group of sentinel physicians and clinics participating in a long-term virus surveillance system, more than 500 isolates of influenza virus were obtained through February 1982. Preliminary analysis of a random sample from a survey of Houston city schools indicates that even during the peak of virus isolations in Houston during the third week of February, when 41% (114/277) of cultures were positive for influenza, only moderate increases of overall school absenteeism rates occurred in the Houston Independent School District. This pattern of moderate increases is consistent with findings in other communities where influenza viruses have been isolated in smaller numbers than in Houston.

The ratio of pneumonia-influenza related deaths has barely exceeded the statistically established threshold level in the 1981-1982 season. In contrast, the ratio consistently exceeded the threshold level by a wide margin for a substantial period during each of the 2 previous winters (Figure 5).

Although most isolates of influenza virus this season were obtained from children and young adults, 1 outbreak of influenza has been reported in a nursing home in St. Louis County, Missouri, where about 34 of 120 residents experienced an influenza-like illness during 1 week. On March 4, shortly after the outbreak began, influenza type B virus was isolated from 8 elderly patients. Reported by P Glezen, MD, Influenza Research Center, Baylor University, J Craven, MD, Houston City Health Department, R Beauchamp, MD, C Webb, Jr, MD, State Epidemiologist, Texas State Dept of Health; KL Scruggs, MD, St. Louis County, WC Banton, II, MD, District 7, ER Spurrier, PhD, D Donnell, Jr, MD, State Epidemiologist, Missouri Dept of Social Svcs; other state laboratory directors and state epidemiologists; Field Services Division, Consolidated Surveillance and Communications Activity, Epidemiology Program Office, Influenza Br, Viral Diseases Div, Center for Infectious Diseases, CDC.

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