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At Least 30 Children Have Died From This Season's Flu. Some of Them Were Perfectly Healthy

At Least 30 Children Have Died From This Season's Flu. Some of Them Were Perfectly Healthy
From TIME - January 22, 2018

Thirty children have died from confirmed influenza-related causes so far this flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions (CDCs) most recent weekly report, released last Friday. The total includes deaths between Oct. 16 and Jan. 13.

CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald has described the 2017-2018 flu season as very active, and has said that much of the country is experiencing widespread and intense flu activity. During a Jan. 12 press update, Fitzgerald said that influenza A, H3N2, has been the most common strain of flu virus reported this year. These viruses are often linked to more severe illness, especially among children and people age 65 and older, she said.

Most children who get the flu do recover. But thousands are hospitalized every year, and some die from complications. The number of children killed by influenza-related causes per season has ranged over the last decade from a low of 37 (in 2011-2012) to a high of 288 (in 2009-2010).

The current flu season is, so far, on track to be deadlier for children than the previous two. During last years flu season, 110 children died from the flu between November 2016 and September 2017, with 17 pediatric deaths reported through the second week of January last year. During the 2015-2016 flu season, 92 children died from the flu, with 10 child deaths by this point in the season.

But there have also been worse seasons in recent years: Compared to the 30 deaths so far in 2017-2018, there were 255 child deaths reported by the same week in 2010. The 2014-2015 flu season was also particularly dangerous, with a total of 148 pediatric deaths, 97 of which were reported by this time in 2015.

Preliminary data suggests that this years flu season has reached its peak and is starting to decline, although experts say its too soon to know for sure. If you assume were about halfway through the season, and you multiplied the 30 cases so far by two, thats a relatively average year for pediatric deaths, says Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Childrens National Health System in Washington, D.C. Having said that, we dont want people to think this year is not dangerousbecause each and every year, children do die.

Young people with chronic illnesses and compromised immune systems are at increased risk for serious complications of the flu. But about 40% of children who die from influenza every year have no preexisting conditions, DeBiasi says. You really cant reassure yourself that your child, who seems to be perfectly healthy, is not going to be a victim of the severe flu, she says.

That was the case with 10-year-old Connecticut boy Nico Mallozzi, who died on Jan. 14 from sepsis resulting from pneumonia. Ten years of health, Nicos mother told TIME last week. He was like an ox.

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