Fear of the flu is spreading after 53 children have reportedly died this season.
This year's flu outbreak is continuing to be one of the worst in years, with the CDC reporting that an additional 16 children have died this week of influenza, bringing the total to 53, the Daily Mail reports.
Speaking on Friday, acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat said that this year's flu season is the worst since the 2009 Swine Flu pandemic. Her statement comes on the heels of new research from Canada that revealed 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.
Reports show that there were 17,024 new laboratory confirmed illnesses this week, bringing the season total to 126,117, the flu now widespread in every state but Oregon and Hawaii.
This flu season has caused hospitals across the U.S. to experience a 40% increase in flu patients, with California being one of the worst-hit states. Overall, however, the western part of the country is finally beginning to see some relief. Eastern states are continuing to see higher rates of hospitalization.
Among the 53 children lost this flu season is 15-year-old Kira Molina of Georgia, who passed away on Jan. 30. Kevin Baynes, 7, passed away on Jan. 29 just two days after being diagnosed with influenza, and Michael Messenger, a 12-year-old Michigan boy died of the flu on Jan. 11 after testing negative for influenza.
The flu has also claimed the lives of several adults, with a 27-year-old California woman, Katharine Gallagher, passing away in December, and a 21-year-old body builder from Pennsylvania dying of organ failure due to septic shock caused by the flu that same month. Single mother of two Tandy Harmon, 36, of Gresham, Oregon passed away on Jan. 19 after being diagnosed.