Hospitalizations for 18-64-year-olds is now at a record high with other active flu years
Katherine Acton, 47, Karlie Slaven, 36, and Tanya Harmon, 37, are all mothers-of-two who died this week from the flu
For the first time in 13 years of CDC data-collecting, the flu is widespread in all states of the continental US (not Hawaii)
Dr Robert Webby of St Jude Children’s, who advises the WHO on flu shots, says the strongest among us can be the weakest, as our immune system wears out
He insists the hype and panic of this year’s flu is ‘not overblown’
Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the NIAID, said this year is shaping up like the deadly 2014/15 season, not worse
New CDC figures show more than 37 children died this season; the CDC predicts the death toll will be similar to 2014/15 (which was 148)
The CDC does not count adult deaths, put they predict around 32 million will catch the flu this year, with around 16 million needing emergency care
By Mia De Graaf Health Editor
27 January 2018
These three young mothers are the latest unlikely victims of the flu this season.
Katherine Acton, 47, Karlie Slaven, 36, and Tanya Harmon, 37, are all mothers-of-two who died this week just days after being diagnosed with the virus, having nursed their own children through the illness.
Earlier this month, 40-year-old mother-of-three and marathon runner Katie Oxley Thomas of California died within 48 hours of falling ill.
While influenza typically claims the lives of infants and the elderly, this year’s aggressive H3N2 strain has struck 18- to 49-year-olds harder than usual.
The hardest-hit unusual suspects are baby boomers (aged 50 to 64), but hospitalizations, illnesses and deaths far above average for all age groups for this time of year.
The panic is not overblown, according to Dr Richard Webby, who is part of the WHO team that develops each year’s flu vaccine and part of the infectious disease department at St Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Speaking to Daily Mail Online, he said it is as severe as it sounds, and there isn’t much a parent can do to protect themselves if their child gets sick, aside from cleaning their hands and getting the flu shot.
Ironically and tragically, he said, the strongest among us may be even more susceptible, since those with a fierce immune response could become more vulnerable to the mysterious and ever-changing virus.
‘There does seem to be an excess in mortality in younger groups this year, but unfortunately no one really knows the answer [as to why],’ Dr Webby said.
‘It has happened before; look back at the 1918 similar phenomenon [the Spanish influenza epidemic], when healthy folks were succumbing to that disease.
‘It can have something to do with your immune response. There is some suggestion that those most healthy, most able to produce an immune response, suffer the most from that.
‘Your immune system keeps on doing its thing to try and get rid of that virus but in so doing, a lot of the immunological factors can be bad for you.’
When it comes to protecting themselves, Dr Webby conceded, parents don’t have many options ‘aside from the obvious’.
‘You could wear masks if you have someone in the household that is high risk, and obviously wash your hands.
‘Under special situations perhaps it’s possible to get some Tamiflu to protect against the flu – it’s meant for people who are sick but theoretically you could take it as a preventative measure.’
For the first time in the CDC’s 13 years of flu data, the virus is widespread in every state, bar Hawaii, and officials warn the outbreak is set to get worse before it gets better, despite hopes we had passed the peak.
Dr Dan Jernigan, director of the CDC’s Influenza Division, said he believes the pediatric death toll – currently at 37 – will climb to around 148 by the end of March, as we saw in 2014/15.