The 2019-2020 flu season is on track to be as severe as the 2017-2018 flu season
Flu season is well underway, and according to one of the top infectious disease doctors in the United States, it could be one of the worst in decades.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, told CNN that currently, this flu season is on track to be as severe as the 2017-2018 flu season, which happened to be the deadliest in more than four decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The initial indicators indicate this is not going to be a good season; this is going to be a bad season,” Fauci said.
The CDC released their latest statistics on Jan. 3, revealing that an estimated 2,900 have died of the flu this season, up 800 from the previous week. Since October, there have been at least 6.4 million flu illnesses and 55,000 hospitalized due to the flu — two statistics that have risen sharply.
According to Fauci, there is a chance that this steep increase could reverse; however, it isn’t likely. “Hopefully this turns around and comes down, but if it continues on the trajectory it’s on, it’s not going to be good,” he said.
Per a graph released by the CDC (above), it’s clear that the 2017-2018 flu season (in teal) was the worst in last several years, and you can see by the red line (which represents the current flu season) that we are currently climbing toward its peak.
“We don’t want it to keep going up and up and up like in 2017-2018,” Fauci said. “Hopefully it won’t, but if it continues to go straight up, this could really be a bad year. The only thing predictable about flu is that it’s unpredictable.”
This flu season, so far, has been particularly deadly for children. According to the latest statistics, 27 deaths were reported as of Dec. 28 — the highest number of deaths at this point in the season since the CDC started keeping track 17 years ago. The majority of the deaths were related to influenza B strains, which children are more vulnerable to as they have yet to build up immunity.
The CDC also reminds that it isn’t too late to get the flu shot. “Flu vaccination is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications,” they said.
The CDC also added that there are things you can do to treat the flu. “Antiviral medications are an important adjunct to flu vaccine in the control of influenza,” they state. “Almost all (more than 99 percent) of the influenza viruses tested this season are susceptible to the four FDA-approved influenza antiviral medications recommended for use in the U.S. this season.” These include oseltamivir phosphate (available as a generic version or under the trade name Tamiflu), zanamivir (Relenza), peramivir (Rapivab), and baloxavir marboxil (Xofluza).