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News Release

 
   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
  December 3, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Dennis McGowan
609-984-7160


Weekly Survey Tracks Influenza-like Illness Activity
Department Posts Results on its Website Each Week



TRENTON - The Department of Health and Senior Services, in conjunction with local health departments, has resumed surveying selected schools, nursing homes and hospitals on a weekly basis to determine the level of influenza-like illness activity occurring within each county in the state. Weekly statistical summaries are posted on the department's website at www.state.nj.us/health/fluinfo/.

For the week of November 27, 2001, 108 schools, 54 nursing homes and 50 hospitals were polled. The overall student absenteeism rate was 5.03%, down from 5.62% the week before. The nursing home rate of 1.44% of residents with flu-like symptoms was relatively unchanged from the week before, while the emergency room rate of 6.31% was up from 5.10% the previous week.

This active surveillance system, now in it's second season, provides a clear picture of influenza and influenza-like illness activity and trends. Survey information supplements the passive system through which schools and nursing homes are asked to report activity only when 15% of the student or resident population is absent or develops flu-like symptoms.

Throughout this flu season, nurses and administrative staff from selected schools, nursing homes and hospitals statewide will report to their local health department the number of students absent or the number of residents and patients ill with influenza-like illness on Tuesday of each week. The information is then forwarded to the department, tabulated and reported via the web Friday or the following Monday.

The institutions surveyed have volunteered to participate in this enhanced system. A minimum of four schools and nursing homes per county will be polled each week.

Information posted on the website includes a description of surveillance activities, a weekly update of statewide statistics, and line graphs tracking activity in schools, nursing homes and hospitals throughout the New Jersey this year compared to last. County-specific data will also be posted on the site.

As part of its heightened surveillance activities, the department has expanded its sentinel physician program this season to include more than 30 private practice doctors. These doctors report the number of patients with flu-like illness seen in their offices, and some will also obtain cultures from selected patients for testing by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to determine which types and strains of influenza virus are active in the state. This information will be added to the weekly activity website as it becomes available.

There has been one isolate of influenza A virus in New Jersey this season, coming from a Mercer County resident and reported by McGuire Air Force Base.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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