The flu virus claimed the lives of 17 children in the United States last week. At the same time, it was reported that roughly 4,000 people are dying each week due to pneumonia and variants of the deadly virus. And yet, experts are saying that the deadliest flu season in a decade has peaked and the outbreak will soon be over.
According to USA Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reported this week that although 17 children were killed by the flu virus, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths attributed to the deadly virus this season to 114, the flu season itself seems to have peaked during the second week of February. During that week, 7.7 percent of all doctoral visits were made of people presenting with flu-like symptoms. That percentage was the highest since 2009. Last week, the visits made up only 5 percent of all people seeking medical help, a decrease of 1.4 percent from the prior week.
Dr. Alicia Fry, who works in the influenza division at the CDC, told National Public Radio that the latest decrease in percentage was “a very good sign that activity is decreasing.” However, she added, “There still is a lot of flu out there.”
Fry noted that there could be six more weeks of flu season, but, “Now, it could be shorter.”
Bloomberg reported in the second week of February that the number of hospitalizations from pneumonia and the flu virus had already approached the total numbers usually seen for entire flu seasons. The amount of influenza in the United States this season is equal to the levels that usually is seen only when a new virus presents itself (usually resulting in far higher levels of hospitalizations and deaths due to a defenseless population). In fact, the levels this season equals that of 2009 when the Swine flu outbreak sickened 60.8 million Americans, saw 274,304 hospitalized, and killed 12,469, according to the CDC.
Anne Schuchat, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s acting director, told Bloomberg, “We have a lot to learn still about influenza. It’s a wake-up call about how severe influenza can be, and why we can never let down our guard.”
This flu season has also been problematic in that it has seen circulating strains of both B strains, H1N1 and H3N2. The latter has been known to cause more complications, according to CNN, and this flu season was no exception. A recent study out of Canada notes that this flu season’s vaccine has only proven 10 percent effective, something also noted with regard to Australia. The CDC’s own version of the vaccine’s effectiveness will soon be published and is reportedly consistent with those nations, although the vaccine was found more effective against other currently circulating flu strains (such as H1N1).