The centers for disease control and prevention [CDC] has reported that 42 states are heavily affected by the flu and an increase in traffic of patients that are being hospitalized has also been noticed. 16 additional children have succumbed to the flu season which has until this moment recorded 53 fatalities among children. Hospitalization rates are also the highest for nearly a decade according to reports provided by federal health officials on Friday.
Anne Schuchat the acting director of the federal centers for CDC has commented that the season is very difficult. Her comments came weeks after officials believed in the epidemic may have reached its peak but unfortunately, the flu has been gaining strength and spreading illnesses which have affected 48 states. 42 states along with the District of Columbia reported high activity of the flu during the last week of January.
The director of CDC’s influenza division Dan Jernigan mentioned that flu cases are occurring simultaneously throughout most parts of the US. The onslaught was ongoing coast-to-coast and is a pattern that is not the usual pattern for flu in the country. Schuchat and Jernigan also mentioned while speaking to reporters that this season was looking far worse than the last severe outbreak in 2014-2015 and it was difficult to determine a final toll at the present moment.
During the last flu season which was severe a total of 56,000 fatalities had been recorded which included 148 children. As of this moment, 53 children have succumbed to the problem in the current season. Data provided by the CDC of hospitalizations are giving the information that the impact of the flu is highest among people who are over the age of 65 and they are followed by the people between the ages of 50 to 64.
The flu season has been claiming children from the beginning of this decade
Child fatalities have been recorded since the beginning of this decade and were the lowest in the 2011-12 season when just 37 pediatric fatalities were recorded. The numbers increased to 171 in 2012-13 and thereafter continued to fluctuate to record 110 fatalities in 2016-17.
The flu season generally picks up between December and February but also has the potential to extend into March. Child fatalities that have already been recorded number 53 and if previous data is taken into account the numbers are likely to increase until the end of March. Wasn’t there any way that the authorities could have kept a check on the numbers of child fatalities which are being recorded?
Who is to blame for the fatalities which are occurring?
Before the onset of the flu season, doctors had been warning that it was going to be a difficult time after considering the dominant strain of virus which was projected in the form of the influenza A virus which is medically identified as the H3N2 virus. This is a strain that can cause severe illnesses as compared to other strains and the problem just gets aggravated when vaccines which are available are ineffective in combating the virus.
The CDC had estimated that the present vaccines which are available may prevent around 30% of the infections by the H3N2 virus until they received preliminary data from Canada suggesting that the effectiveness was indeed lower and in the region of around 17%. Data provided earlier from Australia suggested that the numbers could be as low as 10%. Schuchat stated that the CDC will be putting out its estimate of the vaccine’s effectiveness later this month.
Indications are also being provided by the CDC that strains of the flu with greater susceptibility to the vaccine can be expected to become more common as the flu season progresses. They are recommending the flu vaccine not just to prevent the epidemic but also to lessen the severity of the illness. Antiviral medications and flu vaccines are also reported as facing spot shortages even as nationwide supplies are reported to be adequate.
The data provided by the CDC clearly indicates that a combined effort is necessary to fight the epidemic because the CDC cannot succeed by itself without the cooperation of the public. Neither the administration, the CDC nor the public can be blamed for the fatalities which have been recorded.
While it is quite possible that people have ignored getting the flu vaccination in time, it cannot be denied that some spot shortages which have been observed may also have a role to play. Making a combined effort to battle the flu season is the best method which can be adopted by people for preventing or even lessening the numbers of fatalities which are being recorded.