Flu virus on the upswing in Southeastern U.S.

Flu virus activity is on the rise in the United States, according to the latest data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the CDC, influenza-like-illness (ILI) reports have increased nationally, and are higher than would be expected for this time of the year. Visits to doctors for ILI have increased, with Regions 2 and 4 (the Southeastern U.S.) indicating ILI activity above the baseline. Specifically, New York City and the states of Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi all reported high ILI activity. Overall, the number of states reporting rising ILI has increased.

The CDC also reported that the percentage of specimens tested and giving positive results for influenza in the United States has increased to 21 percent. Region 4, which includes the states of Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee, reported the highest percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza.

Although cases of ILI are higher than normal for this time of year, the CDC also indicated that fatalities connected with the flu virus are at an expected level. Last week, one pediatric death was reported. The case was associated with influenza A (H3) virus.

Thus far, the identified influenza viruses include 2009 H1N1 viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses and influenza B viruses. The CDC estimates that approximately 69.5 percent of the reported viruses have been influenza A and 30.5 percent influenza B. The CDC confirmed that these viruses are similar to the viruses chosen for the 2010-2011 flu vaccine, and that they continue to be susceptible to antiviral drugs oseltamivir and zanamivir.

Activity of the flu season tends to peak in late January and beyond, the CDC said.