Breaking News: Flu season isn’t over yet. Influenza activity is decreasing, but remains elevated in the United States, and there have been 5 new pediatric flu deaths. (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.
While there will likely be some surprises this flu season – there always are – there are some things that you can unfortunately count on.
Among these flu facts include that:
- there have been 1,482 pediatric flu deaths since the 2003-04 flu season, including 89 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.
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.
As of mid-March, the CDC is reporting that “flu activity decreased, but remained elevated.”
The CDC has also recently reported that:
- this year’s flu vaccine reduces “the risk for influenza-associated medical visits by approximately half”
- influenza A (H3N2) viruses, a component of this year’s flu vaccine, are predominating so far this flu season, which could be a sign of a severe flu season. In general, “H3N2-predominant seasons have been associated with more severe illness and higher mortality, especially in older people and young children…”
- Is it a match? – “…antigenic and/or genetic characterization shows that the majority of the tested viruses remain similar to the recommended components of the 2016-2017 Northern Hemisphere vaccines.”
- As often happens on the downside of a flu season peak, we are starting to see more and more influenza B each week
- There are reports of a new avian influenza A(H7N9) epidemic in China. Although deadly, there is fortunately no reports of sustained human-to-human transmission of this flu virus strain that is usually associated with poultry exposure.
- Next year’s flu vaccine won’t be changing much, except that “The A(H1N1)pdm09 virus has been updated compared to the virus recommended for northern hemisphere 2016-2017 influenza season.”
- 36 states (down from 39), including Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin, are still reporting widespread flu activity (the highest level)
- 11 states (up from 8), including Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Montana, South Dakota, Texas, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming, and Puerto Rico are now reporting regional flu activity
- 3 states (up from 2), Hawaii, Oregon, and Utah, are now reporting local flu activity
- no states (down from 1) are now reporting sporadic flu activity
- there have been 53 pediatric deaths this flu season, including reports of 5 new deaths this week
Have you and your family gotten been vaccinated and protected against the flu yet?
“Anyone who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should get vaccinated now.”
CDC Influenza Situation Update
If not, this is still a good time to get a flu vaccine.
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 – 89 pediatric flu deaths
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 2016-17 Flu 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 March 22, 2017