Deaths from pneumonia and influenza across the country rose in the weekly flu report released Friday by the CDC.  It was premature to conclude that any third wave of swine flu was emerging, said the spokesman, Thomas Skinner. Underscoring his point, all the other data in the weekly C.D.C. report, along with New York City hospital admission records and visits to campus health centers tracked by the American College Health Association, found that flu activity was still declining across the country, so the rise in deaths was a mystery.

The weekly report showed that 8.3 percent of all deaths in 122 cities were caused by pneumonia or flu, while the normal midwinter level is about 7.7 percent. That 8.3 percent was slightly higher than it was even in late November, when the flu’s fall wave peaked, although the normal level for late fall is about 6 percent.

Flu Summary for Week Three

  • 164 (4.6%) specimens tested by U.S. World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) collaborating laboratories and reported to CDC/Influenza Division were positive for influenza.
  • All subtyped influenza A viruses reported to CDC were 2009 influenza A (H1N1) viruses.
  • The proportion of deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza (P&I) was above the epidemic threshold.
  • Five influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported. Four deaths were associated with 2009 influenza A (H1N1) virus infection and one was associated with an influenza A virus for which the subtype was undetermined.
  • The proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 1.7% which is below the national baseline of 2.3%. Two of the 10 regions (Regions 4 and 9) reported ILI equal to their region-specific baseline.
  • No states reported widespread influenza activity, five states reported regional influenza activity, Puerto Rico and nine states reported local influenza activity, the District of Columbia, Guam, and 33 states reported sporadic influenza activity, and the U.S. Virgin Islands and three states reported no influenza activity.

Lyn Finelli, the disease centers’ chief flu epidemiologist, said most of the deaths were from pneumonia and were among the elderly. It was possible, she said, that some cities had delayed reporting deaths over the holidays, which would make later data look artificially high.

No states reported widespread flu activity. What flu exists is clustered in the Southeast, as it was when the second wave began last fall. Nearly all the samples tested have been swine flu, which appears to be crowding out seasonal strains this year. In the panic over swine flu last fall, millions more Americans than usual got seasonal flu shots.