The number of students claiming religious exemptions to mandatory vaccinations rose by 25 percent between 2017-18 and 2018-19, DPH said Thursday. NHS Employers / via Flickr Creative Commons
Getting a flu shot NHS Employers / via Flickr Creative Commons

Washington – The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday said the peak of the flu season, which has killed 52 people in Connecticut, is still to come.

“Our latest tracking data indicate that flu activity is still high and widespread across most of the nation and increasing overall,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, the acting CDC director.

The CDC said there were an additional 16 flu deaths among children last week,  bringing the nationwide total this season for youngsters to 53.

About half of those children apparently had been healthy and had no special vulnerability to this viral disease, Schuchat said. She also said 20 percent had received a flu vaccine.

There has been one pediatric flu death in Connecticut.

Schuchat said this is a banner year for hospitalizations caused by the flu.

“So far this year, the cumulative rate of hospitalizations is the highest since we’ve been tracking in this way, which goes back to 2010,” she said. “This is a very difficult season.”

Schuchat also said “it’s not too late to get (a flu) vaccine.”

Caused by viruses, flu is a contagious respiratory illness with mild to severe symptoms that can sometimes lead to death. The flu season begins in October and can last up to 20 weeks.

The very young and very old are most susceptible to dying from the flu.

The CDC said that overall, there were 17,024 new laboratory-confirmed cases of illness during the week ending Jan. 27, bringing the season total to 126,117. But those numbers do not include all the people who have had the flu, as many do not see a doctor when sick.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health on Thursday said a total of 1,154 patients have been hospitalized with confirmed cases of flu this season.

The CDC said there are several strains of flu making people sick this winter. But the agency said most people with influenza are being infected with the H3N2 virus.

“In  seasons where H3N2 is the main cause of influenza, we see more cases, more visits to the doctor, more hospitalizations, and more deaths,” said Dan Jernigan the director of the Influenza Division at the CDC.

As the nation is gripped with a particularly severe and dangerous flu season, there is a shakeup at the CDC.

Brenda Fitzgerald resigned as head of the CDC Wednesday, a day after Politico reported Fitzgerald’s purchase of tobacco stock after she took the position at the nation’s top public health agency.

“Despite recent leadership changes, the CDC remains committed to our 24/7 mission to protect the health, safety and security of our nation,” Schuchat said.

Ana has written about politics and policy in Washington, D.C.. for Gannett, Thompson Reuters and UPI. She was a special correspondent for the Miami Herald, and a regular contributor to The New York TImes, Advertising Age and several other publications. She has also worked in broadcast journalism, for CNN and several local NPR stations. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland School of Journalism.

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