By Barry Eitel
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday that 22 children died nationwide during the week ending Feb. 10 due to influenza.
The sharp rise in pediatric deaths last week brought the total to 84 since the current flu season began in Oct. of 2017, the CDC noted in its weekly flu update.
Even with the tragic increase in pediatric deaths, the CDC said that there are signs that the season is finally peaking after several particularly nasty weeks.
The hospitalization rate rose last week to 68 people per 100,000, up from 60 the week before. Roughly one in 13 visits to the doctor last week were due to symptoms traditionally connected to the flu.
Slightly higher than the peak during the severe flu season that ended in early 2015, the hospitalization rate makes this season the worst in recent years. The amount of people visiting the doctor is just lower than during the infamous “swine flu” pandemic between 2008 and 2009.
However, the CDC would not take the step in declaring that the season has officially plateaued.
"It would be too early to say that we've peaked," CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said in a statement. "We need to see more data, but that is something we are definitely hopeful for."
Along with Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, there are now 37 states with extremely high flu activity, down from 43 last week.
On Thursday, the CDC announced that the current flu vaccine is preventing sickness in around 36 percent of vaccinated Americans. That percentage rises for young children to 59 percent; however, the vaccine is only 25 percent effective at halting the dominant flu strain this year, influenza A H3N2.
"We continue to recommend parents get their children vaccinated even though it's late in the season," acting CDC director Dr. Anne Schuchat said during a press conference.