Severity of Flu Season Passes Peak but Remains Deadly

This year’s record-breaking flu season has finally passed its peak.

The worst flu season since the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic is finally beginning to taper off, according to new reports from the Centers for Disease Control and federal officials, USA Today reports.

According to the reports, as of March 3, the flu remained widespread in 34 states, down from 45 the week before, and was causing high levels of illness in 21 states, down from 32. Doctor’s visits for flu-like symptoms are also dropping, down from 5% the week before to 3.7%. When the flu season reached its peak, 7.7% of doctor’s visits accounted for flu-like illnesses.

“Sometimes with high peaks, you see a quick drop off, and that's what we are seeing right now," said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

While hospital visits are lessening and the brunt of flu season may be over, this year’s strain is still proving to be deadly, with another five children dying, bringing the total to 119 child deaths. One reason that this flu season has been so bad is the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine, research from Canada revealing that this year’s flu vaccine is 14% less effective than originally thought, meaning that it is just 20% effective against the dominant H3N2 strain.

“That means people who were vaccinated should not consider themselves invincible for this season,” said lead researcher Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an infectious diseases expert at the BC Center for Disease Control.

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Despite the ineffectiveness of the vaccine, officials still urged people to get it, with research showing that about 30% of children who died from the flu in recent years had been vaccinated, compared to about 60% of children overall.

“Ultimately, developing a universal influenza vaccine that provides protection against many different strains of flu from year-to-year would be ideal. However, the reality of such a vaccine is likely to still be many years away,” Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in prepared remarks to the House Energy and Commerce Committee.