US flu season: The worst for children in a decade

A man gets a flu shot at a health facility in Washington. The flu has killed an estimated 14,000 people in the US this season. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - The number of children dying from influenza in the United States is higher at this point in the flu season than it has been in 10 years, and the virus is gaining momentum, the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said on Friday (Feb 14).

In the latest report from the CDC, 92 children died in the US as of Feb 8 - or Week 6 of the official flu season. The death toll is the highest number at this point in the flu season since the severe flu season of 2009-10 when 262 children had died by this point.

Experts say the numbers could continue to increase.

In total, the flu has killed an estimated 14,000 people in the US this season, with some 26 million infected and 250,000 hospitalised, the CDC said, making this outbreak far worse than the coronavirus so far.

The CDC said that while the number of hospitalisations is similar to other seasons, the number of children being hospitalised is higher than usual, probably because this year there are two strains spreading - a "double barrel" flu season.

Sixty-two of the paediatric deaths were due to influenza B, while 30 were caused by influenza A, according to the CDC.

Influenza B viruses mostly affect children and young adults, while influenza A is more common in those over 25 years old. The elderly are less affected by both viruses this season.

The CDC said that statistics on the effectiveness of this year's vaccine will be released next week, but stressed that vaccination is strongly recommended as the best way to combat the virus.

Experts told CNN it is potentially a bad time for a longer flu season, because of worries about Covid-19 and the fact that there could be confusion about whether people are getting sick with it or the flu.

Health officials are trying to use labs that test for flu to check for coronavirus too.

US health officials reported a 15th confirmed case of coronavirus in the US on Thursday as the White House criticised China's response to the outbreak, saying Beijing lacked transparency.

The latest US case is a patient who was among the Americans evacuated from the Chinese city of Wuhan - the epicentre of the outbreak - and placed under quarantine at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, the CDC said.

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