Flu epidemic is killing Americans – particularly kids: Rate of under-fives hospitalized with deadly H3N2 has DOUBLED in just one week – as CDC warns new viral strains are emerging
- Deadly H3N2 has now killed 20 children and more than 85 adults in the US
- The child death toll almost doubled in a week, up from 13 to 20 child deaths
- The rate of hospitalizations also almost doubled in a week, up from 13.7 per 100,000 to 22.7 per 100,000
- CDC officials warned more strains of the virus will emerge in the next two months
- We have 11-13 more weeks of flu to go this season
- CDC is urging people to still get vaccinated if they’re not already
- The agency expects this season to be the second-worst on record, behind the devastating 2014/15 season
Seven more American children have died of the flu this week, bringing the death toll to 20 children and more than 85 adults this season, new CDC data show.
While this year’s epidemic is still shy of the devastating death toll seen in 2014/2015, officials warn the rate of cases is severe, and this season looks set to be the second-worst on record.
The deadly H3N2 virus is now widespread in more than 46 states, and the rate of cases is quadruple that of previous years, and hospitalizations have doubled in the last week as the outbreak reaches its ‘peak’.
Uniquely, this year baby boomers appear to be as vulnerable to the virus as the usual victims – infants and the elderly.
Unveiling the sobering statistics on Friday morning, CDC officials insisted it is not too late to get the flu shot, despite evidence that this year’s vaccine is only 30 percent effective against H3N2.
In fact, Dr Daniel Jernigan, director of the Influenza Division at the CDC, says the vaccine could be even more valuable now, since it is more effective against strains which are only just emerging now – including the H1N1 strain and various B viruses.
This graph, released on Friday by the CDC, shows the rate of hospitalizations per flu season. This year (in red) appears to be surging higher than the deadly 2014/15 year, but experts warn this could slope down in the same way
‘Flu seasons every year are bad but this season is on the severe side,’ Dr Jernigan said on Friday.
‘There’s still a long way to go, there’s at least 11 to 13 more weeks of flu to go, there are strains still to show up. B viruses show up later in the season, and we are also seeing H1N1 show up in states that have already had H3 activity. It’s therefore a good reason to get vaccinated if you haven’t.’
According to Dr Jernigan, the flu is not expected to be as devastating to the US as it was to Australia, where vaccination rates are lower and the general population is older.
Indeed, patient traffic for flu is no longer skyrocketing the way it was in December.
‘It looks like it’s starting to level out,’ said the CDC’s Lynnette Brammer, who oversees flu tracking.
Many flu seasons don’t really get going until around Christmas, and don’t crescendo until February. That’s how last year’s flu season played out. This season got off to an early start and cases surged over the holidays.