Story at a glance
- The CDC estimates at least 27 children have died from the flu, breaking a record for this point in the season for child flu deaths since the CDC began keeping records 17 years ago.
- At least 2,900 people have died from the flu this season.
- Health experts say this season could be just as deadly as 2017-2018, when 61,000 flu-related deaths were recorded.
The U.S. is barrelling toward another devastating flu season, as the number of flu cases is on track to be just as severe as the 2017-2018 season, which was one of the deadliest in more than four decades.
So far, at least 2,900 people in the U.S. are estimated to have died from the flu this season, according to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week. That’s 800 more deaths than estimated just a week prior. The CDC estimates in the 2017-2018 season more than 61,000 people died from flu-related deaths.
Since October, flu cases and hospitalizations have spiked. The CDC estimates there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses and 55,000 hospitalizations. This season has been especially devastating for children, with 27 reported deaths through Dec. 28. That’s the highest number of child flu deaths at this point in the season since the CDC began keeping records 17 years ago.
A reason the flu has been so hard on children is that influenza B is this season’s dominant strain. Children are more susceptible to the strain, which is more stable compared with influenza A.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that while it’s impossible to predict just how bad the flu will play out, “the initial indicators indicate this is not going to be a good season — this is going to be a bad season.”
“Hopefully this turns around and comes down, but if it continues on the trajectory it’s on, it’s not going to be good,” Fauci said.
Health experts recommend people get a flu shot if they haven’t done so already, as the worst may still be yet to come.