Immunize MA: Influenza News

February 26, 2021

Key Points:
• Flu activity is unusually low at this time but may increase in the coming months.
• An annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu and its potentially serious complications.
• If you haven't gotten your flu vaccine yet, get vaccinated now.
• There are also flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat flu illness.
National Influenza Activity:
According to this week’s FluView report, seasonal influenza activity in the United States remains lower than usual for this time of year.
Below is a summary of the key influenza indicators for the week ending February 20, 2021:
Viral Surveillance - Clinical Lab: The percentage of respiratory specimens testing positive for influenza at clinical laboratories is 0.1% this week.
Viral Surveillance - Public Health Lab: The number of influenza positives reported by public health labs remains unusually low.
Virus Characterization: Influenza virus characterization information will be updated weekly starting later this season.
Outpatient Illness: This week, 1.0% of patient visits to a health care provider were for Influenza-like illness (ILI), remaining stable (change of <0.1%) compared to week 6 (1.1%). National ILI remains below the national baseline of 2.6%. ILI surveillance may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and should be interpreted with caution.
Outpatient Illness: ILINet Activity Map This week, all jurisdictions experienced minimal activity. ILI activity levels may be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and should be interpreted with caution.
Influenza-associated Hospitalizations: FluSurv-NET sites have reported a current cumulative hospitalization rate of 0.6 per 100,000 population. In 2011-12, a low severity season, the rate was 2.2 times higher at this time in the season.
NCHS Mortality: 19.3% of deaths were attributed to pneumonia, influenza, or COVID 19 (PIC ). This is above the epidemic threshold of 7.2%. Currently, the majority of PIC deaths are due to COVID-19. (NCHS:National Center for Health Statistics)
Influenza-associated Pediatric Deaths: No new influenza-associated pediatric deaths were reported to CDC this week. The total for the 2020-21 season is one.

Influenza Activity in Massachusetts
Figure 1 shows that for MMWR week 7, the percent of ILI visits visits is lower than the two previous seasons in the same week. For more information, see CDC’s influenza surveillance website at

ILI Activity in Massachusetts by Region
Figure 4 shows the relative intensity of reported ILI activity in Massachusetts by region. Although regions may not all experience the same intensity of ILI at similar times, infections due to influenza can be found throughout Massachusetts during flu season. Figure 4 shows that all regions of Massachusetts are reporting minimal ILI activity.

For more information about flu, go to our Weekly Flu Reports.
Questions and Resources
MDPH Influenza Vaccine Guidelines and Tools. This webpage contains information about influenza vaccine and links to guidance about planning flu and other mass immunization campaigns, standing orders, screening forms, consent forms, and MDPH-specific vaccine management guidance.
This website helps professionals work with their patients and emphasizes the importance of your role in protecting the public against influenza each season. Your recommendation to your patients that they receive the influenza vaccine is critical and more effective in increasing acceptance of vaccination than any other influencing factor.
CDC Make a Strong Flu Vaccine Recommendation
Vaccine Ordering and Locating Clinics
A free, online service where users can search for locations that offer immunizations.
Providers Wishing to Order Flu Vaccine for Private Purchase:
The national Influenza Vaccine Availability Tracking System (IVATS) assists providers wishing to privately purchase flu vaccine. IVATS identifies available doses of influenza vaccine by formulation and distributor/vendor throughout the season. 
For questions about influenza please call the Massachusetts Department of Public Health Immunization Program at 617-983-6800 or your local board of health.  
MDPH Resources for Fall Vaccination Clinics

For questions about state-supplied influenza vaccine, please call the Vaccine Unit at 617-983-6828.

Sign up to the
MASSAFP Email List