Breaking News: Flu season is essentially over. (see below)
While flu season typically peaks in February, it is very important to understand that there are few things that are typical about the flu.
Since 1982, while we have been twice as likely to see a flu activity peak in February than other winter months, we have been just as likely to get that peak in December, January, or March. That makes it important to get your flu vaccine as soon as you can.
You really never know if it is going to be an early, average, or late flu season.
There will likely be some surprises this flu season – there always are – but there are some things that you can unfortunately count on.
Among these flu facts include that:
- there have been over 1,600 pediatric flu deaths since the 2003-04 flu season, including 110 flu deaths last year
- about 113 kids die of the flu each year – most of them unvaccinated
- antiviral flu medicines, such as Tamiflu, while recommended to treat high-risk people, including kids under 2 to 5 years of age, have very modest benefits at best (they don’t do all that much, are expensive, don’t taste good, and can have side effects, etc.)
- a flu vaccine is the best way to decrease your child’s chances of getting the flu
And even in a mild flu season, a lot of kids get sick with the flu.
What about reports that the flu shot will be only 10% effective?
This Year’s Flu Season
When does flu season start?
In general, flu season starts when you begin to see people around you with signs and symptoms of the flu, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue, etc. To be more accurate, you can also look at reports for flu activity in your area, especially the weekly reports from the CDC. Those flu reports can also help you determine when flu season ends.
It is obvious now that this is an early flu season. And with an H3N2 predominant strain, everyone should understand that is going to be a severe season.
Worst season ever? Probably not. But this season is starting to live up to some of the hype, as influenza-like-illness (ILI) activity is at 7.5% and is approaching the 7.7 peak of the 2009 pandemic and the overall hospitalization rate is higher than the overall hospitalization rate reported during the same week of the 2014-2015 season.
That leaves the next big questions – when will flu season peak and when will it be over?
As of mid-June, the CDC reports that flu activity is low in most parts of the United States.
The CDC has also recently reported that:
- between 151 to 166 million doses of flu vaccine will be available this year, including 130 million doses of thimerosal-free or preservative-free flu shots, so the great majority of flu shots will not contain mercury!
- FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, will return next year
- there have already been 176 pediatric flu deaths this year, and like in other recent years, most pediatric flu deaths are in kids who are unvaccinated
Are you going to get your kids a flu vaccine next year?
“CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get an injectable flu vaccine as soon as possible.”
CDC Influenza Situation Update
Flu season is essentially over, although like many other flu seasons, we will likely continue to see some flu activity throughout the spring and summer months.
And remember that while this is certainly a very bad flu season, it is still comparable to other recent H3N2 seasons, especially the 2012-13 and 2014-15 seasons.
Recent Flu Seasons
Are H3N2 predominant flu seasons really worse than others?
- 2003-04 flu season – 152 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
- 2004-05 flu season – 47 pediatric flu deaths
- 2005-06 flu season – 46 pediatric flu deaths
- 2006-07 flu season – 77 pediatric flu deaths
- 2007-08 flu season – 88 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
- 2008-09 flu season – 137 pediatric flu deaths
- 2009-10 flu season – 289 pediatric flu deaths (swine flu pandemic)
- 2010-11 flu season – 123 pediatric flu deaths
- 2011-12 flu season – 37 pediatric flu deaths
- 2012-13 flu season – 171 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
- 2013-14 flu season – 111 pediatric flu deaths
- 2014-15 flu season – 148 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
- 2015-16 flu season – 93 pediatric flu deaths
- 2016-17 flu season – 110 pediatric flu deaths (H3N2-predominant)
In addition to high levels of pediatric flu deaths, the CDC reports that the four flu seasons that were H3N2-predominant in recent years were “the four seasons with the highest flu-associated mortality levels in the past decade.”
For More Information on the 2017-18 Flu Season
- CDC – Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2017-2018 Influenza Season
- CDC – Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report
- CDC – Situation Update: Summary of Weekly FluView Report
- CDC – Update: Influenza Activity — United States, October 2, 2016–February 4, 2017
- CDC – Interim Estimates of 2016–17 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness — United States, February 2017
- CDC – Past Weekly Surveillance Reports (1999-2016)
- CDC – Frequently Asked Flu Questions 2016-2017 Influenza Season
- Flu Near You
- WHO – Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System
- Flu News Europe
- FluWatch Canada
- UK Weekly national flu reports
- WHO – Recommended composition of influenza virus vaccines for use in the 2017-2018 northern hemisphere influenza season
Updated July 6, 2018