This year's flu season brought lower rates of death and doctor's visits compared with last season, but a higher rate of flu-related hospitalizations among baby boomers, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
During the 2013 to 2014 flu season (which ran from about mid-November through mid-May), flu activity peaked in the United States during the last week of December, when 4.6 percent of doctor's visits were made by people suffering from flu-like symptoms, according to the report. In contrast, during the 2012 to 2013 flu season, the percentage of doctor's visits for flu-like symptoms peaked at 6.1 percent.
Also during the 2013 to 2014 flu season, the percentage of deaths in the United States attributed to pneumonia or influenza peaked at 8.7 percent, compared with a high of 9.9 percent in the previous season, according to the CDC. [6 Flu Vaccine Myths]
But the rate of hospitalization for flu among baby boomers — those ages 50 to 64 — was about 54 hospitalizations per 100,000 people during this flu season. That's higher than the rate of hospitalizations during the last four flu seasons for that age group, the report said.
This increase may have been due in part to a lower rate of flu vaccination in this age group, the report said.
This flu season was also the first time since 2009 that the H1N1 flu strain was the predominant strain in circulation, the CDC said.
Flu activity this season started to decline in January and February, but there was a late-season increase in illnesses caused by influenza B viruses, the report said. Influenza A and B are the two main types of flu viruses, and influenza A viruses predominated until March this season.
Although flu activity tends to dip in the summer months, cases still occur, and doctors should continue to consider flu as a potential cause of respiratory illness in the coming months, the report said.
Next year's flu vaccines (for the 2014 to 2015 flu season) will contain the same strains of flu as the 2013 to 2014 flu vaccine, the report said. This year's flu shot expires on June 30.