Flu has already killed 39 children in the US and the number is still set to rise, health officials warn

  • Already, the flu has claimed the lives of 39 American children this season 
  • During this same week in the last three flu seasons, no children died 
  • However, visits to doctors for and diagnoses of flu fell last week, a potentially encouraging sign 
  • But CDC experts say that more deaths and illnesses can be expected and it’s too soon to tell if the tide of the severe season has turend  
  • New figures from the CDC show that 9.7 million people have fallen ill and 87,000 people have been hospitalized
  • Since January 1, 4,800 people have died, marking a 65% increase 
  • 32 pediatric deaths have been confirmed so far, double the number of child deaths at this time of year last flu season

Last week alone, seven children died of the flu, bringing the pediatric death toll to 39, according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

By comparison, last year there were no deaths during the week ending in January 11.  

Officials estimate some 13 million Americans have gotten flu so far this year, 120,000 have been hospitalized for the virus and some 6,600 have died. 

Encouragingly, the rates of visits to healthcare providers for flu-like symptoms and positive flu tests both fell last week compared to the previous one. 

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But CDC officials warn that flu levels are still ‘elevated’ and ‘it is too early to know whether the season has peaked or if flu activity will increase again.’  

So far, hospitalizations for the flu are middling this season (red) compared to recent years. CDC officials report a slight downturn in diagnoses, but say it's too soon to say flu has peaked

So far, hospitalizations for the flu are middling this season (red) compared to recent years. CDC officials report a slight downturn in diagnoses, but say it’s too soon to say flu has peaked

This week, seven children died of flu (light blue). For the last several seasons, zero children died during the week ending in January 11

This week, seven children died of flu (light blue). For the last several seasons, zero children died during the week ending in January 11 

Flu activity is widespread in just about every US state and the death rate is nearly double what it was last year, federal health officials say. 

Experts say this is further evidence that the 2019-20 flu season is on track to be one of the worst seasons in recent memory.

Last season, the flu caused between 37.4 million and 42.9 million illnesses and between 36,400 and 61,200 deaths, according to preliminary data from the CDC. 

But the 2019-20 flu season started earlier than the annual epidemic has begun in the last 10 years and is circulating quickly.

‘Last year marked the longest flu season in a decade, and now we are seeing this year’s flu season off to an alarmingly fast start,’ said Rep Diana DeGette (D-CO), who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations panel.

Health officials say influenza B is more common this season than influenza A and is responsible for the majority of the 39 pediatric deaths. 

Panic has spread as frightening accounts of just how hard the flu is hitting the youngest Americans especially. 

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One four-year-old girl in Iowa was left blind after a severe bout with the flu last week. 

Earlier today, a child in Wisconsin under 10 years old died while on the way to the hospital, the Associated Press reported.

It’s not immediately clear if the Wisconsin child had received the flu vaccine, but the four-year-old Iowa girl had not.  

Flu activity remains high (red) in much of the US, and CDC officials say this may mean the season has yet to peak

Flu activity remains high (red) in much of the US, and CDC officials say this may mean t

Doctors are stressing to the public that the best way to protect yourself and your family is to get a flu shot.

The CDC recommends getting the vaccine either in the form of a shot or a nasal spray. For those who choose to go with the injectable, there are two options.

First is the trivalent vaccine, which protects against two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2, and one influenza B strain.

Second is the quadrivalent flu vaccine, protects against the same strains as the trivalent vaccine, as well as an extra influenza B virus.

The nasal spray, FluMist, uses live, weakened viruses which are meant to teach the body to recognize and ward off flu strains if you become infected.

The only group of people who are ineligible for the vaccine – shot and spray – are babies under six months old.

Doctors say taking at-home preventative measures is just as important as getting the vaccine such as washing your hands, not touching your face, coughing into your elbow or a tissue and staying home if you are ill. 

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