Flu nearing national epidemic; 15 children die

Posted at 10:12 PM, Dec 29, 2014
and last updated 2014-12-30 15:31:53-05

This year's flu season was expected to be bad. So far, it’s living up to the hype.

In its most recent flu report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the number of people infected with the flu and pneumonia is near an epidemic threshold.

Twenty-two states report a high number of flu cases, mostly in the midwest and southeast. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 20, more than 2,500 people were hospitalized due to the flu. Most were older than 65 or younger than 4 years old.

A total of 15 children have died from the flu in 2014, four of them the week before Christmas.

This year’s flu is mostly Type A H3N2, which coincides with the highest number of deaths and hospitalizations in the past decade. The worst year in recent memory was in 2012, when 171 children died from the flu.

About half of the H3N2 viruses are mutants, which reduces the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Vaccination works by training the immune system to recognize what the flu virus looks like so it can prepare a response.

But if the wrong flu shows up to the fight, the immune system won’t recognize it. Still, it’s a good bet to get vaccinated.

Gavin Stern is a national digital producer for the Scripps National Desk.