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Flu season starts + important recall
Influenza-like illness exceeds baseline. Cinnamon applesauce pouches recalled due to lead contamination.
Good morning! I am writing with a quick, mid-week update of Outbreak Outlook to share some important information.
I was not able to include influenza-like illness (ILI) in my update on Monday because of delays due to the Veteran’s Day holiday. Well, ILI data has now been released, and it confirms that we have crossed the threshold that marks the onset of flu season.
As of the week ending November 4, 2.9% of doctor visits nationwide were for symptoms like fever, cough, or sore throat, up from 2.7% the previous week. This is the second earliest start of the flu season in the past six years.
As usual, children aged 0-4 are the most affected, with 9.3% of their doctor visits being for ILI symptoms. The next most affected age group is people aged 5-24, with 4.7% of doctor visits for ILI symptoms. For older age groups, the percentage of doctor visits for ILI symptoms is 2.2% or lower.
The Southern region is most affected, with multiple states in the Southeast experiencing “high” or “moderate” levels of ILI. In Florida, for example, around 5% of visits to the doctor were for ILI symptoms. In Georgia, it’s 4.3%.
Alaska, Puerto Rico, and New Mexico are also seeing high levels of activity. In fact, Puerto Rico has declared an influenza epidemic following the hospitalization of at least 1,048 people due to flu. Around half of cases (not hospitalizations, but cases) are in children. Puerto Rico has also already recorded 42 deaths, mostly in unvaccinated older adults.
I suspect that other areas in the U.S., currently showing "low" ILI activity, will see an increase in the upcoming weeks. Get your flu vaccine if you are among the 65% of adults who has not done so yet!
I also want to highlight a significant recall of cinnamon applesauce pouches. While I've mentioned this recall in my recent weekly updates, new information has emerged that underscore the recall's importance.
Several brands of cinnamon applesauce squeeze pouches are being recalled due to dangerously high levels of lead. So far, at least 22 toddlers across 14 states have suffered from lead poisoning from these pouches. The brands currently known to be affected are WanaBana, Schnucks, and Weis. However, as investigators continue to trace the source of the contamination, more affected products may be identified.
Lead poisoning is not always obvious. If you think your child has eaten an affected product, talk to your pediatrician about a blood lead test.
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