Real relief from what has been a brutal flu season may be near, numbers are showing. Flu cases are dwindling, as determined by the drop in doctor visits and less severe strains of influenza popping up, meaning the season is winding down.
On the downside, hospitalizations for the flu continue to be a problem, and there have been several more pediatric deaths, Web MD reports. But for six weeks running, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has clocked a decrease in the number of people going to doctors for the flu and flu-like illnesses. As of March 17, the drop has been from 3.3% to 2.7% of patient visits caused by the flu, the CDC said.
Predictions by health officials have also come true, as less severe cases of influenza B infections are becoming more common, compared to the more severe influenza A strain. As of March 17, influenza B cases accounted for 57.5% of all flu cases, while influenza A clocked in 42.5%. However, for the entire flu season, influenza A has been responsible for 75.6% of all cases, which is why this has been an unusually tough few months.
CDC officials have pointed out why this flu season has been difficult: the current flu vaccine has only been 25% effective in adults against the more serious H3N2 influenza strain that caused most of the flu cases this year. But in children six months to eight years old, the vaccine turned out to be 59% effective.
This season has also seen a rise in pediatric flu deaths, with five more reported until March 17, bringing the total number of children who died from the flu this year to 133.
Despite the numbers, the CDC still encourages people to get their flu shots, as this vaccine is still the most effective against other types of influenza, especially the more common strains.