This years flu season, which began in October, has been one of the worst seen in recent years. But as the flu season comes to an end and A strain H3N2 cases are being reported much less frequently, parents are being warned to remain vigilant when it comes to young children. Cases of both A strain viruses (H3N2 and H1N1) and B strain viruses have been severe, and there have been a total of 246,766 lab confirmed infections in America.
The total number of hospitalizations reported so far is 26,694, and 78% of those were associated with the influenza A viruses. A total of 133 children have died in the US this season. Among adults, 7.8% of deaths reported for week 11 which is only slightly higher than the prediction of 7.4%. Across the US, 2.7% of patients visiting doctors did so for flu-like illness during the same week. This higher than the predictions, but only by 0.5%. In the week ending 17th March, over 58% of new cases were B strain viruses.
And although this strain is considered much less harmful than the H3N2 strain, which tends to lead to more hospitalizations, official advice says that young children could still be at risk. In light of this, the official advice from the CDC is that it’s still recommended for individuals, especially those at an increased risk like children, should get a flu shot. Even if someone has contracted flu already, it’s still possible to be infected with a different strain of the virus during the same season.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said: “We know that illness associated with influenza B can be just as severe as illness associated with influenza. We also know that influenza B tends to be more severe for younger children. We often see a wave of influenza B during seasons when influenza A H3N2 was the predominant virus earlier in the season. Unfortunately, we don’t know what the influenza B wave will look like. We may see a smaller second wave of B than in past seasons, but “we won’t know until we have more data.”