High Influenza B activity recorded this season, children more susceptible to the virus than adults, says CDC
The flu has claimed the lives of 32 children so far -- it was 16 last year. Of the 32 children, Influenza B alone killed 21 children, says CDC. About 9.7 million people have been affected by the flu already and the numbers are set to grow
The 2019-2020 flu season has resulted in 4,800 deaths and 87,000 hospitalizations, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Though the number of people getting hospitalized and the number of deaths have gone down, flu activity is high this season. The number of cases is set to grow: about 9.7 million people have been affected by the flu already.
"The flu season began early this year and took off aggressively," Dr. William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told ABC News.
"It began prominently in the southeastern states, but quickly spread. So far, there is no sign that the momentum of the annual epidemic is slowing," he said. The flu is widespread in Puerto Rico and 46 states. As per CDC estimates, 33 states are seeing the highest infection rates, including New York City and Washington DC.
What is more, a different virus is dominating this season: the Influenza B virus. Usually, influenza A is predominant: it is involved in approximately three in every four cases of the flu. "This year it is Influenza B. That has not happened since the 1992-1993 flu season and it is widely known that Influenza B tends to affect children more. They tend to have more severe reactions to Influenza B," Dr. Tara Narula told CBS News.
The flu has claimed the lives of 32 children so far -- it was 16 last year. Of the 32 children, Influenza B alone killed 21 children, says CDC.
The infection gives rise to complications, including pneumonia. More recently, a four-year-old girl from Iowa battling the flu lost her vision. The virus affected her brain, giving her encephalopathy -- a known complication of the flu. The doctors who treated her said that the infection affected the part of her brain that is involved in vision. Her doctors do not know if she will regain her sight.
"They said she had significant brain damage. They said our child might not ever wake up, and if she did, she might not ever be the same," the mother of the four-year-old told CNN.
The four-year-old girl went through this ordeal because she had not received her flu shot for the current season.
Why is it important to get vaccinated?
The CDC recommends that children over six months of age must get their flu vaccine shots every season, which begins in October and continues until April or May. These vaccines can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from the flu, finds a 2017 study. These vaccines protect against three or four of the most common strains of the virus.
After getting vaccinated, our bodies take up at least two weeks to build immunity against the virus. However, this immunity does not last long: it begins to fade within six months, explaining why experts stress on getting flu shots before every season.