March 5, 2014
Flu Hits Younger, Middle Age Adults Hard This Year

Atlanta—Younger and middle-aged adults often are difficult to persuade to get flu vaccinations, and they have paid a big price for their resistance this year, according to the CDC.

This influenza season, adults in the 18-to-64 age group made up 61% of all hospitalizations from influenza. That was significantly increased from the previous three seasons when the cohort represented only about 35% of hospital admissions, according to a report in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Furthermore, more than 20% of reported influenza-related hospitalizations among women of childbearing age (15–44 years) occurred in pregnant women.

Death rates also were increased in the young and middle-aged group, the article notes.

“Flu hospitalizations and deaths in people younger- and middle-aged adults is a sad and difficult reminder that flu can be serious for anyone, not just the very young and old; and that everyone should be vaccinated,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH.

Flu vaccine coverage in the 18- to 64-year-old group late last year was estimated at about 34%, compared with about 41% in children and 62% in those 65 and older, according to the CDC.

The recent article points out that, while flu is responsible for serious illness and death every season, the hardest hit groups vary from season to season. For the first time since it triggered a pandemic in 2009, the H1N1 virus is predominant in the United States this flu season. As in the year it emerged, when about 56% of hospitalized flu patients were in the 18- to 64-year-old age group, higher rates of hospitalization and death are being seen in younger and middle-aged Americans.

Still, the highest rates of hospital admissions are among people 65 and older (50.9 per 100,000). Those 50 to 64 years now have the second-highest hospitalization rate (38.7 per 100,000), however, followed by young children 0 to 4 years old (35.9 per 100,000), the CDC reports.

The pattern of death rates during the pandemic, when Americans 25- to 64-years-old accounted for about 63% of deaths related to the flu, also has held up this year. This season, that age group has made up about 60% of flu deaths compared with 18%-47% over the three earlier influenza seasons.

“Younger people may feel that influenza is not a threat to them, but this season underscores that flu can be a serious disease for anyone,” Frieden added. “It’s important that everyone get vaccinated. It's also important to remember that some people who get vaccinated may still get sick, and we need to use our second line of defense against flu: antiviral drugs to treat flu illness.”

He said those at high risk of complications should seek treatment if they get a flu-like illness. People at high risk for flu complications include pregnant women; people with asthma, diabetes, or heart disease; people who are morbidly obese; and people older than 65 years or children younger than 5 years, but especially those younger than 2 years.

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect