‘This year may be worse than usual,' doctor says of flu season

4-year-old who died tested positive for virus

Image by Angelo Esslinger from Pixabay.

Health officials are hinting that this flu season could be worse than normal after the first pediatric flu-associated death has been reported earlier than normal.

Officials from the Riverside University Health System in California said in a news release earlier this month that a 4-year-old child who recently died tested positive for influenza.

Though the child had underlying health issues, Dr. Cameron Kaiser said we should never forget that the flu can kill.

“I always recommend people get their flu shots every year, but a death so early in the flu season suggests this year may be worse than usual," Kaiser said. "Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones who are grieving.”

And while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people receive vaccinations by the end of October, Kaiser said it is not too early to get a flu shot now, adding that many providers have this year’s shot in stock already.


The CDC says that even though the effectiveness of the flu vaccine can vary depending on factors that include age and health of the recipient, types and subtypes of the virus and the degree of similarity between circulating viruses and those included in the vaccine, it still provides important protection from the flu.

In the six flu seasons between 2011 and 2016, the CDC estimates the influenza vaccine prevented each season, in the U.S.:

  • Anywhere from 1.6 million to 6.7 million illnesses
  • 790,000 to 3.1 million outpatient medical visits
  • 39,000 to 87,000 hospitalizations
  • 3,000 to 10,000 respiratory and circulatory deaths

Those numbers might seem mind boggling, but do you recall how severe the flu season of 2017-18 was? There were higher rates of outpatient visits and hospitalizations and the season lasted an unusually long amount of time and there was widespread activity, according to the CDC.

During that severe season, it is estimated the vaccine prevented:

  • 7.1 million illnesses
  • 3.7 million medical visits
  • 109,000 hospitalizations
  • 8,000 deaths

Those numbers are despite an overall vaccine effectiveness of 38%.

The CDC recommends the following recommendations for vaccinations:

We reached out to the CDC for more information on the California child's death. They responded: "(We) have not begun releasing our weekly FluVision reports with mortality surveillance data yet."

Have more questions regarding the 2019-20 flu season? The CDC has provided all the answers to the most frequently asked questions here.


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