In the US hundreds of young people have died from the flu over the last several years as doctors attempt to predict the best vaccines to combat the annual outbreak.
Rates of Influenza activity, after falling within the first two weeks of 2020, are once again on the rise, with climbing hospitalisation rates and nearly every state in the US reporting high rates of illness.
As of this writing, the 2019-2020 flu season has been marked by a tragic streak of deaths among people under the age of 18. This season, 78 children have died from the flu.
Health officials warn that despite the media coverage and international health emergency posed by the emergence of coronavirus, influenza remains a constant and predictable health crisis.
Hundreds of people have died in China following a coronavirus outbreak that surfaced last month. The virus has infected thousands of people in more than a dozen countries, and the US has blocked travel, declaring a national state of emergency, and mandated quarantines for people entering the country from China.
However, as many as 26 million people in the US had or are expected to get the flu this season. Flu viruses and complications from the virus have claimed as many as 10,000 lives.
Dr Anthony Fauci from the National Institute of Health said that there’s a near-certainty of what to expect from a seasonal flu with a “guarantee” that the rates will go down in the spring. What makes coronavirus more dangerous, he says, “is there’s a lot of unknowns” with the mysterious illness as the number of cases continue to climb.
Dozens of young people in the US whose rapid illness and hospitalisation sprung from a strain of flu that has vexed doctors and underlined the importance of getting an annual flu shot.
The CDC reported 186 flu-related deaths among children during the 2017-2018 season, and 116 children died during the 2018-2019 season.
During the deadly 2009 flu pandemic, the CDC reported 358 paediatric deaths.
This year’s flu came on “early and aggressively” with an unusual outbreak of an influenza B/Victoria strain. That strain typically will “smoulder around in the background” and become more prominent at the end of a flu season, he says.
Of the 78 reported flu-related paediatric deaths during the 2019-2020 season, 52 were associated with B viruses, while 26 deaths were associated with influenza A viruses.
Experts aren’t sure why a particularly aggressive strain dominates the flu cycle in its early stages and warn people of all ages to use good hand hygiene and, if suffering any flu symptoms, to call a health care provider first before potentially exposing the virus to people in a waiting room. Doctors may be able to prescribe antiviral medication to reduce the spread of illness.