March 10, 2020

The 2019-2020 flu season, charted

Daily Briefing

    Flu activity is still widespread throughout most of the country, with at least 34 million people contracting the flu as of Feb. 29, according to the latest CDC report.

    Q&A: How any organization can achieve universal employee flu vaccination

    Flu activity so far

    According to Friday's Weekly Influenza Surveillance report from CDC, 48 states were experiencing widespread flu activity in the week ending in Feb. 29, while Hawaii and Oregon were experiencing regional flu activity and Washington, D.C., was experiencing local flu activity.

    By some indicators, this flu season is worse than last flu season. For example, the data shows the cumulative hospitalization rate for the flu so far this season is 57.9 per 100,000 people, compared with 38.1 per 100,000 at the same point last season.

    According to CDC, this year's flu season has led to at least 16 million medical visits and 350,000 hospitalizations. CDC found that the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness decreased to 5.3% in the week ending on Feb. 29, down from 5.5% the previous week. The national baseline for those visits is 2.4%.

    CDC estimated that there have been 20,000 deaths related to the flu so far this season.

    Worst flu season for children in a decade

    This flu season has been especially bad for children, according to CDC. The latest CDC report shows 136 pediatric deaths were reported as of Feb. 29, with nine new pediatric deaths occurring in the week ending on Feb. 29. The cumulative hospitalization rate for children ages four and under so far this season is 84.9 per 100,000 people.

    Experts say the high number of pediatric deaths this flu season is due to the fact that both influenza A and B have been dominant, leading to what's being called a "double barrel" flu season. Experts say the influenza B strain is more likely to affect younger people, though they're not sure why. Some believe that older people may have some immunity to influenza B, as it doesn't mutate as much as other flu strains, meaning it's possible older people have caught the strain circulating this season before (CDC Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report, 3/6; CDC "Flu View," accessed 3/9; CDC Preliminary In-Season 2019-2020 Flu Burden Estimates, accessed 3/9; Schumaker, ABC News, 2/21; Wesner Childs, Weather.com, 2/14; Edwards, NBC News, 2/20).

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