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CDC: 7 more children have died of flu; overall hospitalization rate soars

December 9, 2022

Seven more children have died of flu, and the cumulative flu hospitalization rate across all ages is nearly 10 times higher than the highest rate at this time in more than a decade.

The additional pediatric deaths bring the total to 21. Children under 5 years have the second highest hospitalization rate of any age group at 42.3 per 100,000 children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Across all ages, the cumulative hospitalization rate is 26 per 100,000 people. The rate at this time during past seasons going back to 2010-’11 ranged from 0.2 per 100,000 to 2.7 per 100,000.

The CDC estimates flu has caused at least 13 million illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations and 7,300 deaths this season.

About 7.2% of outpatient visits were for a respiratory illness in the week ending Dec. 3, down slightly from 7.5% the week before but well above the baseline of 2.5%. Forty-six of 55 jurisdictions have high or very levels of outpatient visits for respiratory illness.

The AAP and Children’s Hospital Association have asked federal officials to declare a public health emergency as pediatricians’ offices and hospitals are inundated with children seeking care for respiratory viruses on top of continuing mental health concerns and workforce shortages. A new AAP analysis found weekly COVID-19 hospital admissions for children under 5 years nearly doubled over the past two months. The AAP has updated its interim guidance for handling a surge in patient volume.

Most of the flu viruses detected so far this season have been influenza A(H3N2). Most viruses tested are similar to those in this season’s vaccine.

The AAP and CDC recommend everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated to protect them from flu. About 42.5% of children have been vaccinated this season, more than four percentage points lower than at the same time in 2020.

“I want to emphasize that flu vaccines can be lifesaving, and importantly, there is still time to get vaccinated to be protected against flu this season and its potentially serious consequences,” CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., said in a press conference this week. “Getting vaccinated is especially important for those at higher risk of severe flu illness, including those who are younger than 5 years old, those who are older than 65, pregnant people and people who have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe and serious flu consequences.”

Clinicians should start patients on an antiviral as soon as possible when indicated. While there are limited supplies of oseltamivir in some areas, other options are available.



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