With spring weather finally here, many people have a lot more on their mind than getting sick. Unfortunately, flu season is not over yet — according to the CDC, flu season is most likely going to continue for several more weeks.
CDC data shows that H1N1 and influenza B viruses, which were highly active at the beginning of the season, are slowly decreasing. But the number of H3N2 cases, which cause more severe illness, is increasing. This means that we’re far from out of the clear and the U.S. may be dealing with severe flu cases throughout May.
Over the past few years, the average flu season has been around 16 weeks. But this year, flu activity has been above baseline for around 18 weeks, meaning this season is lasting longer than previous years. The good news is that this flu season has been milder than last year, with last year’s flu season resulting in about 80,000 deaths.
But despite the fact that this year’s flu season does seem to be dwindling down, the CDC recently reported five more pediatric deaths as a result of flu-related complications. This brings the number of pediatric flu deaths to 82 for this season. This number is still less than the three previous years, which were 95, 110, and 185, respectively. So while parents have a lot to worry about regarding their children, especially with one in four children between five and 17 having a vision problem, parents still need to keep an eye out for flu-like symptoms.
With people seeking treatment for influenza-like illnesses (ILI) throughout the season, the number of patients seeking healthcare has decreased — data shows that the number of people seeking healthcare for ILI was at the highest during the week of February 16, which was week seven of this flu season, at 5.1%. This is quite low compared to the peak ILI rate during the 2017-18 flu season, which reached 7.5%.
There has been an increase in hospitalizations for influenza patients, which is normal towards the end of a flu season. Recent data shows the overall hospitalization rate reached 56.4 per 100,000 population, with the highest rate of hospitalization being among adults over the age of 65.
While it can take anywhere from 10 to 15 years to develop a vaccine, there is a new flu vaccine developed every year based on the previous years’ data. And with decreased flu cases and deaths this year, it seems this year’s vaccine was more effective.
CDC data estimates that between Oct. 1, 2018 and March 23, 2019, there were between 31.2 and 35.9 million people who had flu illnesses, between 14.4 and 16.8 million people who sought medical treatment for flu-like illnesses, between 419,000 and 508,000 people were hospitalized, and between 28,000 and 46,800 people died from flu complications.
So with the U.S. still being in the midst of flu season, people are urged to keep up the healthy habits — with flu viruses being able to survive on hard surfaces for 48 hours, it’s important to continue washing your hands, covering your mouth when you sneeze or cough, and head to the doctors if you begin to experience flu-like symptoms.