News and Commentary

CDC: 20,000 Deaths This Season From Flu
Simone Groper receives a flu shot at a Walgreens phramacy on January 22, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

According to the most recent report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), among the roughly 34 million people who have suffered from the flu this season, 20,000 have died. Influenza A viruses were the most commonly reported, as opposed to the usual predominance of Influenza B. 136 deaths of children have been reported; the CDC noted, “rates among school aged children and young adults are higher at this time than in recent seasons and rates among children 0-4 years old are now the highest CDC has on record at this point in the season, surpassing rates reported during the second wave of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

The CDC noted, “Almost all (>99%) of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications recommended for use in the U.S. this season.”

The CDC added:

While influenza B/Victoria viruses predominated earlier in the season, during recent weeks, influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses have been reported more frequently than B/Victoria viruses. For the season, A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses are the predominant virus … The predominant virus also varies by age group. Nationally, for the season overall, influenza B viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among children and young adults less than 25 years, while A viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses among persons 25 years and older. In the most recent three weeks, influenza A viruses are the most commonly reported influenza viruses in all but the school aged children and young adults (5-24 years old).

Of the 2009 pandemic, the CDC noted:

The (H1N1)pdm09 virus was very different from H1N1 viruses that were circulating at the time of the pandemic. Few young people had any existing immunity (as detected by antibody response) to the (H1N1)pdm09 virus, but nearly one-third of people over 60 years old had antibodies against this virus, likely from exposure to an older H1N1 virus earlier in their lives … 12,469 deaths were reported in the U.S. as a result of the (H1N1)pdm09 virus.

But the CDC also noted, “Though the 2009 flu pandemic primarily affected children and young and middle-aged adults, the impact of the (H1N1)pdm09 virus on the global population during the first year was less severe than that of previous pandemics. Estimates of pandemic influenza mortality ranged from 0.03 percent of the world’s population during the 1968 H3N2 pandemic to 1 percent to 3 percent of the world’s population during the 1918 H1N1 pandemic. It is estimated that 0.001 percent to 0.007 percent of the world’s population died of respiratory complications associated with (H1N1)pdm09 virus infection during the first 12 months the virus circulated.”

In January, speaking on CBS’ This Morning, Dr. Tara Narula, an assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine for Hofstra University NSLIJ School of Medicine, explained the increase in the deaths of children from the flu this season: “The word we use about the flu is unpredictable, and it’s been unpredictable. Because we’ve seen a shift in the predominant strain, which is usually influenza A. This year it’s influenza B. That hasn’t happened since the 1992-1993 flu season. And we know that influenza B tends to affect children more. They tend to have more severe reaction to influenza B.”