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Home News Monitoring Statewide Flu Cases via Influenza Surveillance System
David Morgan
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Monitoring Statewide Flu Cases via Influenza Surveillance System

January 13, 2016 - Influenza Surveillance - Vaccination

Flu vaccine available statewide for children and adults.

Influenza continues to be a major cause of illness and death in New Mexico because the influenza virus changes from year to year. For this reason, the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) has created a strong system for tracking influenza across the state in order to detect changes in the disease as they occur. The influenza surveillance system in New Mexico involves partners across the state in clinics, hospitals, laboratories, at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and within NMDOH.

“Our Department has developed a comprehensive system for monitoring influenza and its impact on the health status of New Mexicans,” said Department of Health Secretary of Health Retta Ward, MPH. “The data collected through this system contributes to influenza prevention recommendations and policies both in New Mexico and nationally.”

The influenza surveillance system in New Mexico has numerous parts which combined provide a good understanding of what is happening related to flu in New Mexico on an ongoing basis:

  • NMDOH maintains a network of 27 sites statewide that collect data on a weekly basis for patients seeking care for influenza-like illness (ILI). These ILI sites consist of community health centers, student health centers, hospital emergency rooms, Indian Health Service clinics, emergency rooms and private medical clinics that collect and report data on patients who present with flu symptoms. The information received by NMDOH is provided to the public one week after it is received.
  • ILI sites provide patient specimens to the NMDOH Scientific Laboratory Division (SLD) throughout the year. SLD analyzes the specimens to determine what influenza strains are circulating in New Mexico and detect any sudden shifts in circulating influenza types.  Influenza viruses that are isolated at SLD are then sent to CDC laboratories for additional analysis as part of a national surveillance system.
  • New Mexico participates in FluSurv-NET, a system for monitoring New Mexico residents hospitalized with influenza in 23 hospitals in New Mexico and Texas. Extensive data are collected and analyzed on each hospitalized patient to look for changes in illness patterns and identify other risk factors. Currently, 18 states participate in FluSurv-NET.
  • Pneumonia and influenza death data are collected on a routine basis to track the number of people who have died from influenza and related infections and to understand what other risk factors contributed to their death.
  • NMDOH staff investigate outbreaks of influenza in long-term care facilities and other facilities when they occur and assure that recommendations for mitigating the impact of these events are followed, including increased testing and the use of anti-viral medications to prevent illness in people in the facilities who have been exposed.
  • NMDOH staff work with staff from the Office of the Medical Investigator (OMI) to assure that specimens from investigated deaths with influenza as a possible cause are tested to rule-out influenza as a contributing factor.

Since the beginning of the 2015-16 influenza season, ILI activity in New Mexico has remained at or below national levels. Circulating viral strains analyzed to date match the strains used in this flu season’s vaccines. There have been three confirmed influenza-related deaths and 38 pneumonia-related deaths so far. Influenza activity varies by region, with the Northwest region of the state currently reporting the highest level of ILI activity.

“It’s not too late to get vaccinated against flu. Each flu season is different, and it’s difficult to pinpoint when cases will peak. There are plenty of doses of pediatric flu vaccine available,” said Secretary Ward.

The Department of Health recommends that individuals talk with their healthcare provider or pharmacist about getting the flu vaccine.

NMDOH has maintained an active influenza surveillance system for decades. In 2009, during the most recent influenza pandemic, NMDOH, through its influenza surveillance system, identified that American Indians were at greater risk of death from infection with the pandemic strain. This finding led to inclusion of American Indian/Alaskan Native race (AIAN) as an independent risk factor for death from influenza and recommendation that all AIAN receive influenza vaccinations each year and antiviral medications for those who become ill with influenza. Influenza surveillance is a vital public health function that continues to develop and improve over time in New Mexico.

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Monitoreo De Casos De Influenza En Todo El Estado Mediante El Sistema De Vigilancia De Influenza