USA flu outbreak eases, deaths top 16K

The surge in cases comes despite initial estimates, also released Thursday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that this year's vaccine has been 45% effective.

Health officials in Lexington confirmed Friday morning that the city recorded its fourth flu-related death of the season.

It says everyone aged six months and older should get immunized, and the best time for that is between October and December, before the virus begins spreading.

The effectiveness data suggests the vaccine has cut the number of clinic visits by sick children in half, Martin said.

Among the 4,112 ARI patients enrolled in the study from Oct 23, 2019, to Jan 25, 2020, a total of 1,060 (26%) tested positive for influenza virus infection, including 691 (17% of the total patients) for influenza B viruses and 374 (9%) for influenza A viruses. But the CDC estimates that the vaccine has been about 50% effective against that strain in children. Typically, the flu shot has been 40% to 60% effective in interim estimates when the flu vaccine viruses match the viruses circulating.

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All major medical groups in the USA recommend virtually all Americans age 6 months and older get the annual flu shot, saying that although it's not flawless, it remains the best way to protect against seasonal flu.

Another reason for the higher number of flu-related deaths in children might not be specific to kids at all.

The earlier prevalence of influenza B - a flu strain that tends to be more common in children - could be a reason why more children were affected, Schaffner said. Patients 1 year old and older presenting at study sites in Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec were included in the study. When the CDC looked at how well the shot has been guarding against each strain, investigators found it's been 50 percent effective against B/Victoria. Of the influenza A cases, (77%) were H1N1 and 23% were H3N2. That's an increase of 13 since last week's report.

Earlier in the season, the flu was especially tough on children because the B strand of the virus, which is more common in young people and sometimes severe in children, was dominant, McClatchy News reported.

The vaccines are made each year to protect against three or four different kinds of flu virus.

  • Ismael Montgomery