Metro-East News

Flu kills five more kids across the country as CDC warns that season isn't over

The flu season might have peaked, but federal health officials say there could be a second wave coming.

Five more pediatric influenza deaths were reported last week, totaling 133 children who have died from the flu this year. Two of this week’s deaths were due to the Influenza B virus. Pediatric deaths are the only influenza deaths tracked by the CDC.

However, Influenza A viruses have predominated through the season, according to the federal Centers of Disease Control, but Influenza B viruses were more reported than A viruses during “week 11,” which was March 11-17 — data from that week were publicly reported Friday.

The season hit its peak in late December and January, with more than 20,000 positive tests per week reported to the CDC by its voluntary reporting network. Called one of the worst flu seasons in recent memory, emergency rooms were flooded almost to the level of the 2009-2010 H1N1 “swine flu” epidemic, according to the Washington Post.

This secondary Influenza B strain could lead to a late-season bump, which is not uncommon in seasons when H3N2 was the primary strain, according to the Post. The severity of the season was not helped by the vaccine, which was about 36 percent effective overall. It was only 25 percent effective against H3N2, but far more effective against H1N1 and Influenza B.

It was estimated that by the end of the season, as many as 35 million people will have contracted the flu, 700,000 hospitalized and up to 56,000 killed by the virus.

Medical professionals continue to urge all residents to get a flu shot, even at this point this late in the season. While it cannot guarantee protection from infection, it can reduce the severity of the illness and prevent further spread.

Experts also reminded people that they cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

People are also recommended to avoid crowds, wash hands often, avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

If someone is infected, they should stay home, rest, drink fluids and avoid contact with others — especially the elderly and infants. Flu infection can continue up to 24 hours after the fever breaks without the help of a fever-reducing medication.

In other statistics:

More than 92 influenza hospitalizations per 100,000 population were reported nationally. Of those, it is estimated that senior citizens were the demographic most likely to be hospitalized, with 402 cases per 100,000 population.

More than 200,000 positive flu tests have been reported to the CDC, and about 71 percent of those were Influenza A.

Six states are still having high influenza activity, with a proportion of outpatient visits higher than the national baseline. Illinois is now registering low activity for influenza; high activity is still apparent in Arizona, Nebraska, and Virginia, among others.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald