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March 31, 2020

The 2019-2020 flu season, charted

Daily Briefing

    Between 38 million and 54 million people had been stricken with the flu as of March 21, according to the latest CDC data.

    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, 38 states were experiencing widespread flu activity in the week ending in March 21, while 10 states were experiencing regional flu activity. Alaska, Hawaii, and Washington, D.C. were 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 67.3 per 100,000 people, compared with 53.6 per 100,000 at the same point last season.

    According to CDC, this year's flu season has led to at least 18 million medical visits and 400,000 hospitalizations. CDC found that the percentage of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness increased to 6.4% in the week ending on March 21, up from 5.6% the previous week. The national baseline for those visits is 2.4%.

    CDC in the latest report estimated that there have been at least 24,000 deaths related to the flu 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 155 pediatric deaths were reported as of March 21, with six new pediatric deaths occurring in the week ending March 21. The cumulative hospitalization rate for children ages four and under is 93.9 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, 3/21; CDC "Flu View," accessed 3/30; CDC Preliminary In-Season 2019-2020 Flu Burden Estimates, accessed 3/30; Schumaker, ABC News, 2/21; Wesner Childs, Weather.com, 2/14; Edwards, NBC News, 2/20).

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