Those deaths bring the total number of children reported to have died to 84 since October when the current flu season began. Three out of four children who died from the flu had not gotten a flu vaccine, the acting director of the CDC said in a Thursday news conference.
“We continue to recommend parents get their children vaccinated even though it’s late in the season,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat. The season may continue for several more weeks, she added.
Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death.
The vaccine’s performance in children was “better than we expected,” said Schuchat following release of the CDC’s midseason report of estimated vaccine effectiveness rates.
Overall, the vaccine was found to be just 36% effective against circulating flu strains, however, in children, the effectiveness rate was 59%.
This means a vaccinated child has reduced his or her risk of getting sick and going to the doctor’s office by more than half.
CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said that flu activity is still high, however it did not increase significantly over the last week.
“While this may mean that we’ve peaked, we won’t know until know more until we see the data for the coming weeks,” said Nordlund.
Still, Schuchat noted that levels of flu-related illness across the nation are reaching peaks observed during the H1N1 pandemic season in 2009, though this year’s flu is not pandemic.
“Hospitalization rates are significantly higher than what we’ve seen for this time of year since our current tracking system began almost a decade ago,” Schuchat added.