192 children died last flu season, the deadliest on record, as CDC says about 80% of those were not fully vaccinated
According to the agency, 192 children died during the 2019-20 season, surpassing the previous highest recorded number of pediatric deaths, which was 188 & happened during the 2017-18 season
Three additional pediatric deaths that happened last season were reported to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during the week ending October 10, bringing the total number of deaths that happened during 2019-20 to 192. This makes the last season the deadliest flu season for children on record in the US. It surpasses the highest recorded number for pediatric flu deaths reported during a regular flu season, which occurred during the 2017-18 influenza season, when 188 pediatric flu deaths were reported to the agency.
“All three deaths occurred during the 2019-20 influenza season bringing the total number of deaths occurring during that season to 192. One death was associated with an influenza A virus for which no subtyping was performed and occurred during week 11 (the week ending March 14, 2020). Two deaths were associated with influenza B virus infection and occurred during week 3 (the week ending January 18, 2020) and week 49 (the week ending December 7, 2019),” says the report.
According to the health experts, nearly 80% of flu-related pediatric deaths reported to CDC happen in children who have not been fully vaccinated against the flu. “The same is true last season and underscores the importance of an annual flu vaccine,” explains the CDC. In 2019-2020, only 21% of children eligible for vaccination were fully vaccinated against flu, and this figure was similar to past seasons.
Among the 189 reported pediatric flu deaths analyzed so far by the agency, 42% (80) occurred in children younger than 5 years old, 11 occurred in children younger than six months and thus too young to get a flu vaccine, and 58% (109) deaths occurred in children 5-17 years old. Of the 176 pediatric deaths among children with known information on medical conditions, 77 (44%) had a pre-existing medical condition.
Millions of children fall sick with flu every year
Flu illness is more dangerous than the common cold for children, according to health experts. Each year, millions of children get sick with seasonal flu, thousands of children are hospitalized, and some die from the flu. Find more information regarding the emergency warning signs of flu in children here.
Children younger than five years old and those younger than two in particular, are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications. Children with certain long-term health problems, including asthma, diabetes and disorders of the brain or nervous system, are also at high risk of serious flu complications. “Flu seasons vary in severity, however, every year children are at risk. The CDC estimates that since 2010, flu-related hospitalizations among children younger than 5 years old have ranged from 7,000 to 26,000 in the US,” write authors.
The best way to prevent flu is with a flu vaccine. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season, even in January or later. Injectable influenza vaccine (IIV) is given as an injection (with a needle) and is approved for use in people 6 months and older. Live inactivated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is given as a nasal spray and is approved for use in people 2 through 49 years old. However, there is a precaution against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in people with certain underlying medical conditions. More information about the nasal spray flu vaccine can be found here.
Some children, 6 months to 8 years old, require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection from flu. According to guidelines, children in this age group getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season — spaced at least 4 weeks apart. A child’s healthcare provider can advise if a child needs two doses. “If your child needs the two doses, begin the process early. This will ensure that your child is protected before flu starts circulating in your community,” suggest experts.
The latest CDC report shows that flu activity remains low across the US. Nationwide, during week 41, which ended on October 10, 1.2% of patient visits were reported through the country for influenza-like illness. This percentage is below the national baseline of 2.6%.
Based on the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) mortality surveillance data available on October 15, 7.2% of the deaths occurring during the week ending October 10, were due to pneumonia, influenza, and Covid-19. This percentage is above the epidemic threshold of 5.7% for week 41.