The flu hospitalization rate rose last week to 51.4 per 100,000 people, the highest rate for this point in the year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began enhanced surveillance of laboratory-confirmed flu hospitalizations during the H1N1 flu pandemic in 2009-2010, CDC Acting Director Anne Schuchat, M.D., said at a news briefing today. The H3N2 strain predominant this flu season has been associated in past years with more hospitalizations and deaths in older adults and young children. Nearly 14,700 flu hospitalizations and 53 flu-associated pediatric deaths have been reported so far this season. If the current hospitalization rate continues, the 2017-2018 flu season could exceed the 710,000 hospitalizations for the 2014-15 flu season, said Dan Jernigan, M.D., director of the CDC’s Influenza Division. In other news, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., yesterday said the agency is working with several manufacturers to ramp up production of empty intravenous containers to help hospitals mitigate the shortage of IV saline for flu and other patients. CDC recommends treating all hospitalized, severely ill and high-risk patients who have suspected or confirmed influenza with antiviral medications as soon as possible. The agency also continues to recommend flu vaccination for everyone aged 6 months and older, since flu viruses are likely to continue circulating for weeks.

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