Flu kills 10 more children, bringing toll to 63 kids as severe season continues

Friday, February 9, 2018
By Paul Martin

Kim Painter
USAToday.com
Feb. 9, 2018

An additional 10 children have died of flu in the U.S., bringing the total to 63 in a harsh season that is still gaining intensity and on track to break some recent records, federal health officials said Friday.

In the latest update, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the highest flu hospitalization rate seen since the agency started keeping comparable records in 2010 and the highest rate of flu-like illnesses since the flu pandemic of 2009.

“We don’t know if we have hit the peak yet,” said Anne Schuchat, acting CDC director. “We could potentially see several more weeks of increased flu activity.” And while deaths have not been extremely high, it is possible they could increase in line with hospitalization rates, she said.

It is not clear why this flu season is so intense and so unusually widespread – still causing wide swaths of misery in 48 states and high levels of illness in 43 of them, as of Feb. 3.

But the viral strain causing the most illness this year, H3N2, is known to cause more severe illness and to be harder to control with vaccination than other strains.

In previous severe flu seasons – not counting pandemics caused by newly mutated viruses — the CDC estimates that up to 56,000 people have died. The vast majority of deaths have been in adults over age 65.

In the most recent week data were available, in late January, 10% of deaths in the nation were from influenza and pneumonia. The agency does not keep an exact count of adult flu deaths, but does closely track child deaths. In the last severe flu season, in 2014-2015, 148 children died.

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