MEDFORD, Ore. — According to the CDC, 13 flu-related pediatric deaths have been reported in the last week in the U.S. So far in this year's flu season, two children have died in the state of Oregon. Neither of those cases have been confirmed in the Medford area, according to local and state health officials. Nationwide, 105 children have died.
Although more pediatric flu deaths have been reported compared to this time last year, the flu season started much earlier and Modie Jonathan with the Oregon Health Authority says it is difficult to compare the two seasons until the season is over.
“The CDC has reported, to-date we have 105 pediatric deaths; that’s anyone under the age of 18,” said Tanya Phillips, Health Promotion Manager with Jackson County. “Predominantly it is Influenza B, but then you have to look at the other part of it — how many deaths total have we seen in the U.S. The CDC estimates that to be 16,000 to 41,000.”
The fact that Influenza B is the predominant strain this flu season is unique.
“We saw it early on,” said Phillips. "We haven’t seen Influenza B being the predominant strain in 27 years.”
Influenza A is typically the predominant strain and is mostly found in animals and humans. It’s not uncommon to see Influenza B, it just usually becomes more prominent towards the end of the flu season, rather than the beginning.
“What will happen is the CDC will look into this a little bit more and look into if that strain of B that we’re seeing; typically the vaccine does amazing when it comes to B, and see if it started to mutate, if there was a bit of a difference that made it not as effective,” said Phillips.
According to a recent report by the CDC, this year’s flu vaccine has been 45 percent effective. Even though children are a vulnerable population, the vaccination was 55 percent effective for kids.
“Among children, we know that kids six-months to 17 years respond better to the flu vaccine and this vaccine this year shows that,” said Phillips.
The flu vaccine remains the most effective way to prevent the flu, even if you get a flu shot and still get sick.
“That’s one thing to always think about with the flu vaccine, maybe it doesn’t always prevent the illness from occurring but it will still help provide some protection where maybe the individual isn’t as sick as long, and maybe they don’t have to go to the hospital because the vaccine provided some protection to them,” said Phillips.