Following its announcement last week that the 2018-2019 flu season has officially started, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a report showing flu activity is elevated nationally.
Although health officials say it’s "too soon to make any assessment about this season's severity,” the CDC said the H1N1 virus is the primary virus being detected nationally. In previous years, this virus has been associated with severe illness among children.
So far this season, there have been 11 pediatric deaths associated with the flu, and many more children have been hospitalized for their symptoms. The top 11 states experiencing widespread flu outbreaks include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, and North Carolina.
"At this point, most flu activity has been driven by illness in school-aged children, and hospitalization rates among children younger than 5 years old (7.7 per 100,000) are now the highest among all age groups. Usually adults 65 years and older have the highest hospitalization rates," the CDC reported.
The agency said the average duration of a flu season is typically about 16 weeks, with a range of 11 weeks to 20 weeks.
"With significant flu still to come this season, CDC continues to recommend that anyone who has not yet gotten a flu vaccine this season should get vaccinated now. It takes approximately two weeks for the protection provided by vaccination to begin,” the CDC said.
Health officials noted that during most flu seasons, about 80 percent of reported pediatric deaths occurred in unvaccinated children. However, a study conducted last year showed flu vaccination cut the risk of flu death among healthy children by 65 percent and among children with a high-risk condition by 50 percent.
The 2017-18 flu season, which was recently declared as one of the most severe on record, claimed the lives of 185 children, according to the CDC. There were estimated to be a record-breaking 900,000 hospitalizations for flu-related illnesses like pneumonia and more than 80,000 deaths.