The severe flu season continues to wind down, but five more child deaths have been reported.
Pediatric deaths now stand at 119, surpassing the past two seasons, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Deaths in previous non-pandemic seasons have ranged from 37 to 171.
About 3.7% of outpatient visits to clinics and emergency departments during the week ending March 3 were for flu, which is down from 4.9% the week before but still above the national baseline of 2.2%. Flu activity was high in 21 states, down from 32 and widespread in 34 states, down from 45.
The cumulative hospitalization rate for flu-like illness grew to just over 86 per 100,000 people. The rate was 63 per 100,000 for children ages 0-4 years and 17 per 100,000 children age 5-17.
The dominant virus this season has been influenza A, which tends to be seen in severe seasons. In the most recent week, however, influenza A was seen at about the same rate as influenza B.
The Academy and CDC recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. This year’s vaccine is 36% effective for the overall population and performs even better in young children. The Academy currently is reviewing a proposal to bring back a nasal spray flu vaccine next season.
Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., told a U.S. House subcommittee on Thursday that while work on a universal flu vaccine continues, the agency is looking into ways to make seasonal flu vaccines more effective, especially against H3N2 strains.
“As we continue to invest in the future of manufacturing and vaccine technology,” he said, “we also need to remember the importance of simply ensuring that more people are vaccinated with available vaccines each flu season.”