Flu Season May Be Winding Down, but It Killed 13 More Children Last Week

The 2018 flu season might be coming to an end, but it remains deadly, as 13 more child deaths were reported in the past week.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest update on influenza activity in the U.S., the percentage of people seeing doctors for influenza-related symptoms was at 6.4 percent in the week ending on Feb. 17, down from 7.4 percent the previous week. This is the first noticeable dip of the season, but it is still well above the average rates for the U.S., TIME notes.

Nearly 100 children have died from flu this season, and that is likely to climb before it ends. Hospitalization rates are also high, with widespread influenza activity reported in 48 states and Puerto Rico. Hawaii, Oregon, Guam and Washington D.C. reported local influenza activity.

Hospital admissions are likely to climb pass the 2014-2015 season, when 710,000 people were admitted to the hospital for influenza symptoms.

According to the CDC, the influenza strain responsible for the difficult flu season is H3N2. This year's flu vaccines were only 25% effective against it.

The CDC said in a report earlier this month that total vaccine effectiveness was only an estimated 36% for all strains. However, the vaccine was effective among younger children, aged six months to eight years. The shot was about 59% effective against H3N2 in that age group.

Earlier this month, CDC Acting Director Dr. Anne Schuchat told reporters that the U.S. was on track to "break some recent records," as the number of hospitalizations was tracking higher than in 2010.

"I wish that there were better news this week, but almost everything we’re looking at is bad news," Schuchat said on Feb. 9. “Flu is incredibly difficult to predict... and we don’t know if we’ve hit the peak yet.”

Doctors told NBC News Friday that next season could be just as bad, as the flu vaccine will not be significantly different. Flu vaccines are grown in eggs, and doctors are looking at other ways to make an effective vaccine.


"We're hoping this year to find out whether or not there's a performance difference between cell-based vaccines and the egg-based vaccines," Dr. Daniel Jernigan of the CDC told NBC News.

"Hopefully through our vaccine effectiveness networks we'll get some of that information, but it would be good to see if there is a performance difference between those vaccines."