Flu Season Continues to Be Mild: CDC
In more good news, health officials report flu vaccine is 59 percent effective so far
By Steven Reinberg
WEDNESDAY, Feb. 24, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- This flu season continues to be mild, and the flu vaccine is working better than the one used last season, U.S. health officials reported Wednesday.
But that doesn't mean everyone can rest easy yet, because flu activity is picking up a bit and the season isn't expected to peak for several weeks, probably some time in March, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
"Last week influenza activity did increase a bit more and at a little bit faster rate," said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist in the CDC's influenza division.
Doctor visits for flu last week increased from 2.5 percent of all visits to 3.4 percent, Brammer said. "To date, it's still been a mild season, with low levels of hospitalizations and low levels of flu-associated deaths," she said.
This flu season is a welcome change from last year, which saw a particularly early and nasty flu season. By this time last year, flu was already severe and sending thousands of Americans -- especially older ones -- to the hospital, Brammer said. In fact, she added, "By this time last year, we had peaked and were coming down."
Despite this year's mild season, 13 children have died from flu complications so far, Brammer said. Depending on the severity of a flu season, the CDC has reported anywhere from 40 to more than 300 pediatric deaths. So the number of child deaths this year is comparatively low, she said.
Unlike last year, the most common flu strain circulating this season is the H1N1 strain. Last year, it was the H3N2 strain, Brammer said. "But H3N2 is still hanging in there, it's not going away," she said. "We've got a little bit of everything out there."
Both of these strains, and a third one, are included in the current flu vaccine, Brammer said, making this year's shot a better match than last year's vaccine. Last year, the flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective overall, according to the CDC.