When flu season arrives, most medical experts are prepared for anything. Even under the best of circumstances, there are times when vaccines don’t work as anticipated, or there are far more cases of the flu than in previous years. Whatever the case may be, it’s always important to have a thorough summary of each season, which will allow doctors and other healthcare professionals and experts to learn what worked and what did not. To learn how this past flu season went, here is a summary of the 2018 influenza season.
High Severity Season
For the first time, the CDC classified the past flu season as high severity throughout all age groups. To do so, the agency looked at various data and determined that based on the number of visits to emergency rooms and outpatient clinics, along with the hospitalization rates for influenza patients, the season was one of high severity.
Flu Season Peak
In the 2017-18 flu season, the number of influenza cases began to increase rapidly in November 2017, continued to do so through January and February 2018, and finally peaked in March 2018. Due to the many months flu levels stayed high, the CDC concluded this was the longest flu season since the pandemic of 2009.
How Many Deaths Occurred During Flu Season?
This can be a hard question to answer for many reasons. Perhaps the most important reason is that while pediatric deaths from the flu are reported to the CDC, adult deaths are not. Therefore, to gain an idea of the overall influenza deaths within the U.S. population, the agency relies on various types of mathematical models. These models, which rely largely on using death certificates that list influenza or pneumonia as an underlying cause of death, cannot give exact numbers. Instead, they simply indicate whether flu-related deaths for a season have been elevated. However, it was reported to the CDC that during the 2018 influenza season, 180 children died as a direct result of the flu, which was the highest number of child deaths ever reported during a standard flu season. Of the 180 deaths, 144 of them were children who did not receive a flu vaccination.
Which Flu Virus was Most Common?
During the 2017-18 flu season, the most common flu virus was H3N2, commonly known as Influenza A. However, from March 2018-May 2018 the Influenza B virus became more common in patients. Because of this, hospitalizations increased, leading to nearly 31,000 patients being admitted to hospitals in the U.S. due to influenza.
Flu Vaccine Production
Since public health experts predicted a high number of likely influenza cases for 2017-18, vaccine manufacturers produced between 151-166 million doses for use with patients, a record number for any season.
Was the Flu Vaccine Effective?
Since the flu vaccine is not necessarily meant to keep a person from getting influenza, it can sometimes be hard to judge its effectiveness. In 2017-18, public health experts and the CDC determined the flu vaccine’s effectiveness to be 40 percent against Influenza A and B viruses. Using various data, experts concluded the vaccine reduced by 40 percent a person’s likelihood of needing medical care for flu symptoms. According to officials, it’s estimated the vaccines led to the prevention of 5.3 million flu cases, 2.6 million visits to outpatient clinics and emergency rooms, and over 85,000 hospitalizations.
While it can be difficult for doctors to predict which influenza virus will be predominant each year, CDC data suggests that of all the various flu viruses known to scientists, less than one percent were deemed to be resistant to the 2017-18 vaccine.
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