This year’s flu season is as bad as the 2009 swine flu pandemic that killed about 200,000 people worldwide, the CDC revealed today.
Ten more children have died this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths to 63 and the CDC warns that we may not have reached the peak yet as B viruses and the H1N1 strain are still emerging.
Speaking on Friday, acting CDC director Dr Anne Schuchat said: ‘Influenza-like illnesses are now as high as we observed at the peak of the 2009 pandemic.’
‘Activity is still on the rise overall, in fact we may be on track to break some recent records,’ Dr Schuchat said.
Hospitalizations are ‘significantly higher’ than the devastating 2014/15 season and with several more weeks of flu season she said ‘more deaths are likely to happen’.
While the H3N2 continues to dominate this season, there are increasing cases of B viruses and the H1N1 strains.
The H3N2 is especially prevalent among children, according to Dr Schuchat.
B viruses are equally as dangerous as the A strain, causing the same symptoms that can lead to deadly complications, including pneumonia and sepsis.
‘The hospitalization rate is approaching the final rate that we observed at the end of the active 2014 flu season,’ Dr Schuchat said.
The virus is still widespread in 48 states, bar Hawaii and Oregon, which dropped down to regional level last week.
Parts of the west coast have been seeing a decline and last week Dr Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC’s Influenza Division, said the he hopes it represent a trend of decreasing activity.
Influenza-like illness activity is at 7.7 percent breaking the 2003/4 high of 7.6 for a non-pandemic year.
The CDC does not count the number of adult deaths, however Dr Jernigan previously said that he expects the number of pediatric deaths to be similar as the 2014 season that killed 148 children.
‘The flu is incredibly difficult to predict and we don’t know if we’ve hit the peak yet,’ Dr Schuchat said.
While most flu-seasons last about 16 weeks, some have gone as long as 20 weeks.
Dr Schuchat said the CDC continues to recommend getting vaccinated with this year’s flu shot, even if you’ve had the flu this season.
Health officials warn that you can still fall ill with another strain of the virus even if you have already been infected with the flu this season.
The vaccine is 34 percent effective at preventing the H3N2 strain and offers more protection against the H1N1 strain and B viruses.
There are two B viruses prevalent in the US this season: Yamagata, known as the ‘Japanese flu’ and the Victoria.
Only those who receive the ‘four strain’ flu vaccine are protected against the Yamagata strain.
The Victoria B virus is included in the ‘three strain’ vaccine.
‘Some protection is better than none,’ Dr Schuchat said.
She recommends staying home if you feel ill and wash your hands to prevent the spread of germs.
‘What may be mild symptoms to you can be deadly for someone else,’ Dr Schuchat said.