Influenza Surveillance Update – Alicia Budd (CDC)
Alicia provided an update for influenza activity through Week 36, ending September 5, 2020. Flu activity continues to remain very low in the U.S. Since early April, less than 1% of specimens tested at clinical labs have been positive for flu. For this very small number, the split has been almost even between influenza A and B. Similar low levels of positives have been reported from public health labs. These levels are too low to offer insights into how close a match we might anticipate with the influenza types included in the 2020–2021 vaccine.
Reported influenza-like illness (ILI) also has been extremely low, with just 0.9% of visits attributed to ILI. Nationally and in 9 of 10 public health regions, the ILI percentage was below baseline. Region 7, in the center of the country, has been above baseline levels for two weeks in a row. This is due to increased activity in Iowa that was known to be associated with increased COVID-19 activity, rather than flu.
No new pediatric deaths from influenza have been reported in the last two weeks, leaving the total for the 2019–2020 season at 188. NCHS data for pneumonia and influenza (P&I) mortality indicated 5.4% of deaths during the week were attributable to P&I. This was slightly below the baseline level of 5.5%. This was the fourth week of decline since the July peak. As with ILI, this peak was associated with increased COVID-19 activity.
Alicia also highlighted an article just posted in the MMWR, Decreased Influenza Activity During the COVID-19 Pandemic – United States, Australia, Chile, and South Africa, 2020. The article discusses how flu levels dropped precipitously in the U.S. this spring, followed by very low levels seen in the southern hemisphere in recent months. The timing of this drop coincided with widespread implementation of community mitigation activities (wearing masks, social distancing, etc.) to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It appears these efforts have had a large impact on flu virus circulation. If these mitigation efforts continue, they may possibly lessen or delay the flu activity in the United States during the coming season.
One partner asked about the rate of false positive and false negative tests for flu this year, and how that should impact evaluation of a person who has been quarantined away from the workplace. Alicia noted there are many variables to consider in this instance, such as what test was being used, as well as the amount of flu circulating in the community. (In times of low activity, false positives can happen more often.) However, there is no reason to assume any variability in testing results this year versus prior years. On the question of returning to work with a positive flu test but negative COVID test, she suggested that guidance should be obtained from COVID experts. L.J also mentioned that there aren’t any policies or CDC recommendations in place that would require a person to be tested for flu in order to return to work.
Alicia announced that, for surveillance purposes, the new flu season will begin with Week 40 on September 27.
Announcements – L.J Tan (IAC)
- Virtual Summit Meetings – L.J reminded partners that slides and recordings from the Summit virtual meetings are available on the Summit website. Presentations from the September 9 webinar, Developing COVID-19 Vaccines in Record Time, Part 2: Status of Clinical Trials, have not yet been posted while final approvals are obtained from all speakers. An announcement will be shared with partners when this information has been posted.
- American Nurses Association (ANA) Program – Holly Carpenter announced that the ANA has just launched a new campaign, The Race to 200M. This effort calls on 200 million Americans to be vaccinated against flu during the upcoming season. A press release is available with additional information.
- Immunize Nevada – Immunize Nevada will be holding a series of flu webinars during the week of September 21–25. More information is available on the organization’s webpage.
- CDC Partners Call – On September, 21, CDC will be holding a Partners Call titled CDC COVID-19 Vaccination Planning: What You Should Know. Drs. John Brooks, Nancy Messonnier, and Diane Hall will be the featured speakers. Additional information will be posted online.
- Welcome, Joanna! – L.J repeated last week’s announcement that LaDora Woods has moved into a new position with CDC and will no longer be supporting the Summit’s activities. He once again offered a heartfelt thank you to LaDora for her years of service and gave a warm welcome to Joanna Hill as she moves into this role. We look forward to working with Joanna in the future.