US federal authorities have reported 22 more child deaths in the nationwide flu epidemic. That brings the total to 84 in the worst outbreak in decades.
Most of the children who died from the flu this season were not vaccinated. The epidemic has affected 48 states and shows no signs of dying down, according to the health authorities.
Friday’s update from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said a total of 857 people had died of influenza and more than 3,000 from pneumonia this week. That was a decrease in flu deaths from the week before, as well as the week before that.
"It would be too early to say that we’ve peaked," CDC spokeswoman Kristen Nordlund said. "We need to see more data, but that is something we are definitely hopeful for."
At a Thursday press conference, acting CDC director Anne Schuchat warned the flu season was not over, even after 12 weeks of unusually-high infection rates.
“This flu season continues to be extremely challenging and intense, with very high levels of office visits for flu and hospitalization rates, all indications that flu activity is high and likely to continue for several more weeks,” Schuchat said.
This year’s child death toll nearly matches that at the same point in 2015, when 148 children died, Nordlund said. The 2015 flu season killed an estimated total of 56,000 people.
Back in January, federal health officials admitted that this year’s flu season is more intense than any since the 2009 swine flu pandemic, and warned it will still get worse.