CDC: Flu activity still high, deaths in kids climb to 84

Mother holding child's hand in the hospital
Mother holding child's hand in the hospital

Patcha1984 / iStock

Flu is still very active throughout most of the country, according to the latest FluView surveillance data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today.

Yesterday, Anne Schuchat, MD, the CDC's acting director, joined Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, to address the nation on the ongoing flu season.

"Three out of four kids who've died this year were not vaccinated," said Schuchat. This week, there are 22 more pediatric deaths, bringing the season's total to 84. Five of the pediatric deaths were attributed to influenza B infection, while the remaining 17 were linked to influenza A.

Schuchat, Azar, and Adams all urged people to get a flu shot for themselves, and especially for their children if they had not done so yet.

"I got a shot, President Trump got a shot," said Azar, who also said he briefed the president on this season's flu activity earlier this week. "Everyone behind this podium got vaccinated." Citing data released yesterday by the CDC, Schuchat said this season's flu shot reduced a person's risk of contracting influenza by about one-third.

"But even if you get the flu, you're much less likely to have a severe case or be hospitalized," said Azar, who compared getting children vaccinated against the flu to using a car seat and a seatbelt.

Yesterday, the CDC announced midseason flu vaccine effectiveness (VE) estimates, showing the overall VE this year was 36%, and the shot was 25% effective against H3N2, this year's dominant strain.

The vaccine looks to be more effective in children, about 59%, according to Azar.

Outpatient, hospital activity high

The percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness (ILI) activity last week was 7.5%, slightly down from last week's high of 7.7%, a percentage not seen since 2009's H1N1 pandemic.

Like last week, the CDC said there is an increase in influenza B activity, typical at this point in the season. Influenza B accounted for 33.8% of all laboratory-confirmed influenza specimens, with influenza A accounting for 66.2%. Of subtyped influenza A specimens, 78.4% were H3N2, and 18.1% were H1N1.

The CDC said there was a cumulative rate of 67.9 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 population, a jump from the previous week's rate of 59.9 per 100,000 population. Among all hospitalizations, 85.0% were associated with influenza A infections.

Adults over 65 are still the hardest hit demographic this season, with 294.9 per 100,000 population hospitalization, followed by adults ages 50 to 64 (72.8 per 100,000 population) and children aged 0 to 4 years (47.1 per 100,000 population).

Like last week, all states but Hawaii and Oregon reported widespread flu activity. New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 43 states—also the same as last week—reported high ILI activity, with 2 states (North Dakota and Utah) reporting moderate activity, 3 states experiencing low (Hawaii, Idaho, and Washington), and 2 states experiencing minimal activity (Maine and Montana).

See also:

Feb 16 CDC FluView

Feb 15 CIDRAP News Story "US study finds 36% flu vaccine protection, 25% against H3N2"

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