High flu activity and new pediatric flu-related deaths around the country lead some area schools to announce temporary closures in hopes of preventing further spread of the virus.
As flu activity continues to increase throughout the United States, seven new pediatric influenza-related deaths were reported during the last week of January.
In the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) FluView summary for the week ending January 28, seven additional pediatric deaths associated to infection with the flu virus had been reported. These deaths all occurred within the first 4 weeks of 2017, with six linked to influenza A viruses and one linked to influenza B; this brings the number of flu-related deaths in those aged 17 and under to a total of 15 thus far for the 2016-2017 season.
According to the New York State Department of Health, four of the recently reported pediatric deaths this flu season have occurred in New York City. New York has seen a high level of seasonal flu activity throughout the state, and New York City continues to experience elevated levels of influenza. With at least 6 to 8 weeks left in the flu season, New York City-area doctors say there’s still time for kids and adults to receive a flu shot. In addition, they are also reminding parents that the nasal spray vaccine is not available this year due to recent findings on its low rate of effectiveness.
In another hard-hit part of the country, Tennessee school officials recently decided to close schools in Polk County, Rhea County, Van Buren County, and other areas after experiencing large flu outbreaks among their student populations. As many as 18% of students, along with many teachers, missed school due to the flu in one county, causing several school districts to suspend classes to prevent further spread of the virus. Tennessee remains one of 15 states reporting high influenza-like illness activity, and a new weekly flu report from the Tennessee Department of Health notes that around 40 of the state’s 95 counties have reported at least one laboratory-confirmed case of the flu in recent weeks, with 442 respiratory specimens testing positive for the flu in the week ending January 28.
With only 10 states currently not reporting widespread flu activity, health officials say the prevalence of influenza A (H3N2) has continued to make for a severe flu season, leading to an increase in flu-related hospitalizations across the United States. Since the start of flu season, which the CDC says begins on October 1 of each year, there have been a total of 5,683 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations in the United States. Although the flu season has been severe, CDC officials note that the cumulative overall rate of 20.3 hospitalizations per 100,000 individuals so far this season falls well below the hospitalization rate of 48.3 per 100,000 individuals that occurred during the 2014-2015 flu season. In that same year, the United States saw 148 flu-related pediatric deaths, leaving health officials hopeful that the country will remain on track to see a low number of flu-related mortality. The last time there were fewer than 100 pediatric flu deaths in the United States was during the 2011-2012 flu season, when health officials reported 37 influenza-associated deaths.
The CDC continues to recommend that everyone aged 6 months and up receive a flu vaccine, noting that even though it’s February, it’s still not too late to receive the vaccine and prevent yourself from catching the virus this season.