By Barry Eitel
SAN FRANCISCO (AA) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that influenza is still widespread in the United States and has killed 16 children in the past week alone.
In total, the CDC has recorded 53 pediatric deaths connected to the flu since the annual flu season began last October.
Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting director of the CDC, said that roughly half of the young patients killed by the flu appeared healthy and not especially vulnerable before contracting the virus.
Nationwide, hospitalizations are at the highest levels since the CDC began monitoring this data eight years ago.
"Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall," Schuchat said in a statement.
"So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we've been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010. This is a very difficult season.”
Influenza activity is now widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico, the CDC revealed. Over the past week, the state of Oregon joined Hawaii in being the sole states with reduced flu hospitalizations.
The CDC said that 80 percent of the children who died of the flu so far this season had not been vaccinated.
Even though vaccination is the best chance of avoiding infection, the CDC noted Friday that the vaccine released this season is not effective against the strain of the virus proving most virulent over the course of the past few months. Most cases of flu so far are being caused by the strain H2N3, also known as Influenza A.
Vaccination is likely to reduce the severity of H2N3, however, the CDC noted.
For the week ending Jan. 27, the grand total for flu hospitalizations for this year’s season hit 126,117. The CDC believes the season has not yet peaked and is on track to be one of the worst in 10 years or more.