The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has upgraded the threat from this year’s flu season to an all-out epidemic, after 15 children died from complications of the illness.
Twenty-two states have reported a high number of “influenza-like” illnesses to the federal agency, up from 13 in the CDC’s report just one week ago. Every part of the country has seen outbreaks of the flu by now.
In the past week, four children died from complications of the flu, the CDC said Monday. That brings the total to 15 children’s deaths during the 2014-2015 flu season, across nine states — Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Ohio, Texas and Virginia.
Kids under the age of four account for the most hospitalizations from the flu this year. As always, children and the elderly are the most at risk for complications.
In the past several years, deaths from the flu have clustered most heavily during January and February. During 2013-2014’s flu season, 109 children died from complications of the illness, as reported to the CDC. Based on the CDC’s public data so far over the past several weeks, this year’s season looks like it could be even harsher.
The CDC reports that about 90 percent of flu cases this year are the H3N2 subtype — and that could be cause for concern. The H3 version of the disease often leads to the largest amount of hospitalizations and deaths, Mayo Clinic infectious disease specialist Dr. Pritish Tosh told ABC News.
That also means that this year’s batch of flu vaccine, which is made based off the previous year’s subtypes, isn’t the best match for the strain that’s dominating this year.
“There may be some level of cross-protection,” ABC News chief health editor Dr. Richard Besser said. “But we won’t know until March or so until we look back.”
About 100 children die from the flu every year, according to Besser.
Thus far this year, southern states and the midwest have been hit the most heavily by influenza-like disease. Thirty-six states say they’ve already seen widespread flu activity.