The 2018-19 Flu Season Update

Breaking News: Flu season continues, with widespread flu activity in most of the United States. (see below)

Flu activity is still rising...
Flu activity is still rising…

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. That’s why it is best to not try and time your flu vaccine and to just get it as soon as you can.

Flu Season Facts

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 1,660 pediatric flu deaths since the 2003-04 flu season, including 185 flu deaths last year
  • of the average 118 kids that 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
  • FluMist, the nasal spray flu vaccine, is once again available for healthy kids who are at least 2-years-old

You can also count on the fact that even in a mild flu season, a lot of kids get sick with the flu.

What about reports that the flu shot won’t be effective?

Don’t believe them. The flu vaccine works and besides, it has many benefits beyond keeping you from getting the flu

This Year’s Flu Season

As of early-February, the CDC reports that flu “seasonal influenza activity rose again over last week.”

The CDC has also recently reported that:

  • 45 states, Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), are now reporting widespread flu activity (up from 36 last week)
  • 3 states, Colorado, Indiana, and West Virginia and Puerto Rico (down from 11 last week)
  • only 2 states, Alaska and Hawaii, are still reporting local flu activity (down from 2 last week)
  • only the District of Columbia is still reporting sporadic flu activity (same as last week)
  • no states are still reporting no flu activity
  • the proportion of people seeing their health care provider for influenza-like illness (ILI) was 3.8% (up from 3.3% last week), which is still above the national baseline of 2.2%, but far below the 7.5% we saw last year
  • The overall hospitalization rate was 15.3 per 100,000 population (up from 14.8 last week). The highest rate of hospitalization was among adults aged ≥65 (39.8 per 100,000 population), followed by children aged 0-4 (27.3 per 100,000 population) and adults aged 50-64 (20.5 per 100,000 population).
  • there have already been 24 pediatric flu deaths this year, including 2 new deaths this past week

Some good news?

So far, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses are most common (that’s good, because H3N2 years are typically more severe), and the “majority of influenza viruses characterized antigenically and genetically are similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses..”

While such a good match doesn’t guarantee that this year’s flu vaccine will be effective, it is a very good sign.

Are you going to get your kids a flu vaccine this year?

“CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a  flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

CDC Influenza Situation Update

Although flu season has started, it is definitely not too late to get a flu vaccine.

For More Information on the 2018-19 Flu Season

Updated February 4, 2019

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