2016-2017 Influenza-Associated Pediatric Deaths Surpass 100

Flu virus particles on red blood cells, as shown on colored scanning electron micrograph.
Flu virus particles on red blood cells, as shown on colored scanning electron micrograph.
The 2016-2017 flu season is the first time since 2014-2015 that pediatric influenza-associated deaths have surpassed 100.

A total of 101 influenza-associated deaths in children occurred throughout the 2016-2017 flu season, according to a report published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is the first time since the 2014-2015 season that the number has exceeded 100.

Although full information on the vaccination status of these children is not yet available, in past seasons, between 80% and 85% of flu-associated pediatric deaths have occurred in children who had not received flu vaccine. The CDC also reported that the influenza A (H3N2) virus, typically associated with more severe outcomes for children and older adults, predominated in the 2016-2017 season.

A study reported in Pediatrics found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of flu-associated death by 51% among children with underlying high-risk conditions and by nearly 65% among otherwise healthy children between 2010 and 2014.

The CDC recommends that everyone aged 6 months and older be vaccinated for the flu, even though children younger than 5 may be more vulnerable to serious flu complications. Certain long-term health problems, such as asthma or other lung disorders, heart disease, or a neurologic or neurodevelopmental disorder, may also increase the risk for complications.

For the 2016-2017 season, influenza-like illness was at or above baseline for 17 consecutive weeks, with activity peaking nationally in February.

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  1. CDC: Reported flu deaths in children surpass 100 for 2016-17 [press release]. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/news/reported-flu-deaths-children.htm. Published June 23, 2017. Accessed August 9, 2017.
  2. Flannery B, Reynolds SB, Blanton L. et al. Influenza vaccine effectiveness against pediatric deaths: 2010-2014 [published online May 3, 2017]. Pediatrics. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-4244

This article originally appeared on Clinical Advisor