Early, severe flu season caused big rise in child deaths: CDC

June 14, 2013 by Steven Reinberg, Healthday Reporter
Early, severe flu season caused big rise in child deaths: CDC
Senior hospitalizations also up during 2012-13 onslaught, U.S. health officials say.

(HealthDay)—This past flu season started earlier, peaked earlier and led to more adult hospitalizations and child deaths than most flu seasons, U.S. health officials reported Thursday.

At least 149 children died, compared to the usual range of 34 to 123, according to the U.S. .

The predominant strain of flu circulating in 2012-13—H3N2—made the illness deadlier for children, explained Lynnette Brammer, an with the CDC.

"With children H3 viruses can be severe, but there was also a lot of viruses circulating . . . and for kids they can be bad, too," she said.

Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, added that H3N2 is easily transmitted from person to person and has a high rate of complications, which accounts for the increased hospitalizations.

"This is the kind of flu that enables other infections like pneumonia," he said. "Really what people need to know is that flu isn't the problem. The flu's effect on the immune system and fatigue is the problem."

The flu season started in September, which is unusually early, and peaked at the end of December, which is also unusual, Siegel said.

Flu season typically begins in December and peaks in late January or February.

Texas, New York and Florida had the most reported . Except for the 2009-10 H1N1 , which killed at least 348 children, the past flu season was the deadliest since the CDC began collecting data on child , according to the report, published in the June 14 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

were targeted heavily by the 2012-13 flu. Those aged 65 and older accounted for more than half of all reported flu-associated hospitalizations in the 2012-13 flu season—the most since the CDC started collecting data on flu hospitalizations in 2005-06, the agency reported.

In addition, more Americans saw a doctor for flu than in recent flu seasons, the CDC noted.

The flu vaccine was well matched to the circulating strains, but less effective than health officials had hoped. In January, the CDC reported that the vaccine was about 60 percent effective, which meant it offered "moderate" protection from the flu.

Siegel said even a moderately effective vaccine is better than not getting vaccinated at all because flu symptoms will be milder, with a lower chance of complications.

According to Brammer, decisions about the vaccine for this coming season were made in February so manufacturers could make a sufficient supply for fall. The makeup will be basically the same as the 2012-13 vaccine with some tweaks to some of the strains so they better match changes in the viruses, she said.

The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated. The agency urges people at higher risk for severe disease—including young children, pregnant women, anyone with a chronic health problem and the elderly—to get the vaccine.

Don't make any assumptions about the course of next season's flu based on the recent past, these experts added.

"I wouldn't assume next year's flu season is going to be milder or that it's going to be early," Siegel said. "The flu is unpredictable."

Because the 2012-13 started several months earlier than usual, the CDC also advised doctors to consider influenza as the source of respiratory illnesses that occur beyond the typical flu window.

Explore further: CDC: 105 US children died this flu season

More information: For more information on flu, visit the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Related Stories

CDC: 105 US children died this flu season

March 22, 2013
(AP)—Health officials say the flu season is winding down, and it has killed 105 children—about the average toll.

Flu still at epidemic levels: CDC

January 25, 2013
(HealthDay)—While flu activity remains high across the United States, there are signs that the number of infections may be leveling off, federal health officials reported Friday.

CDC: Flu seems to level off except in the West

January 25, 2013
New government figures show that flu cases seem to be leveling off nationwide. Flu activity is declining in most regions although still rising in the West.

48 states now report flu activity, 29 children dead: CDC

January 18, 2013
(HealthDay)—Forty-eight states are now reporting widespread flu activity, up from 47 last week, U.S. health officials reported Friday.

Health officials: Worst of flu season may be over

February 8, 2013
Health officials say the worst of the flu season appears to be over.

US flu season starts early, could be bad, CDC says

December 3, 2012
Health officials say flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly 10 years—and it could be a bad one.

Recommended for you

Google searches can be used to track dengue in underdeveloped countries

July 20, 2017
An analytical tool that combines Google search data with government-provided clinical data can quickly and accurately track dengue fever in less-developed countries, according to new research published in PLOS Computational ...

MRSA emerged years before methicillin was even discovered

July 19, 2017
Methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) emerged long before the introduction of the antibiotic methicillin into clinical practice, according to a study published in the open access journal Genome Biology. It was ...

New test distinguishes Zika from similar viral infections

July 18, 2017
A new test is the best-to-date in differentiating Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses. The antibody-based assay, developed by researchers at UC Berkeley and Humabs BioMed, a private biotechnology ...

'Superbugs' study reveals complex picture of E. coli bloodstream infections

July 18, 2017
The first large-scale genetic study of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cultured from patients with bloodstream infections in England showed that drug resistant 'superbugs' are not always out-competing other strains. Research by ...

Ebola virus can persist in monkeys that survived disease, even after symptoms disappear

July 17, 2017
Ebola virus infection can be detected in rhesus monkeys that survive the disease and no longer show symptoms, according to research published by Army scientists in today's online edition of the journal Nature Microbiology. ...

Mountain gorillas have herpes virus similar to that found in humans

July 13, 2017
Scientists from the University of California, Davis, have detected a herpes virus in wild mountain gorillas that is very similar to the Epstein-Barr virus in humans, according to a study published today in the journal Scientific ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.