Pediatric Influenza Deaths in US Second Highest on Record: CDC

By Troy Brown, RN

Thirteen children died from influenza-related illness during the week ending February 15, for a total of 105 this season. This is the second highest number of flu deaths in children since the inclusion of such deaths as a nationally notifiable condition in 2004, according to a February 21 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Hospitalization rates in children are also higher than at this point in recent seasons.

Since 2004, the number of pediatric deaths at this time in the season has ranged from three, during the 2011–2012 season, to 265, during the 2009–2010 season.

Table. Pediatric Mortality as of February 15, 2020

Year Deaths During Week 7 Total at This Point in Season
2019 – 2020 13 105
2018 – 2019 7 41
2017 – 2018 13 97
2016 – 2017 5 34
2015 – 2016 1 14
2014 – 2015 6 92
2013 – 2014 2 52
2012 – 2013 14 78
2011 – 2012 0 3
2010 – 2011 6 41
2009 – 2010 3 265
2008 – 2009 8 17
2007 – 2008 12 22
2006 – 2007 3 15
2005 – 2006 0 14
2004 – 2005 3 9

Nearly 30 Million Illnesses

There have been at least 29 million flu illnesses, 280,000 hospitalizations, and 16,000 deaths from influenza so far this season, according to CDC estimates.

The overall cumulative hospitalization rate — 47.4 per 100,000 population — is similar to that seen in recent influenza seasons; however, “rates in children and young adults are higher than at this time in recent seasons,” the CDC reports.

Hospitalization rates were highest in adults aged 65 years or older (116.7 per 100,000 population) and children younger than 5 years (72.5), followed by adults aged 50 to 64 years (61.5), adults aged 18 to 49 years (26.3), and children and adolescents aged 5 to 17 years (19.2).

“Pneumonia and influenza mortality has been low,” the CDC says; 6.8% of deaths that occurred during week 7 were caused by pneumonia and influenza, which is below the epidemic threshold of 7.3% for week 6.

Nationwide, 6.1% of outpatient visits were for influenza-like illness, a slight decrease from 6.7% the week before but still above the national baseline of 2.4%.

The percentage of respiratory specimens that tested positive for influenza in clinical laboratories fell to 29.6% from 30.3% the previous week. “The overall decrease in the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza was due to a decrease in the percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza B. The percentage of specimens testing positive for influenza A continued to increase,” the CDC explains.

Influenza A (H1N1)pdm09 viruses have increased recently. The numbers of A(H1N1)pdm09 and influenza B/Victoria viruses are approximately equal for the season overall.

Interim vaccines show an effectiveness of 45% overall and 55% among children, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

Influenza activity was high in New York City, Puerto Rico, and 44 states. It was moderate in the District of Columbia, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, and Nevada; low in the US Virgin Islands; and minimal in Alaska and Idaho.

Geographically, influenza activity was widespread in Puerto Rico and 47 states. It was regional in Hawaii, Idaho, and Oregon; local in the District of Columbia; and sporadic in the US Virgin Islands. Guam did not report influenza activity.

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