By: Hannah Barnett, NHC Communications Intern
For the first time ever, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting nearly real-time data from the 2018-2019 flu season. The CDC normally waits until the end of the season to publish flu burden estimates, but agency officials are hoping that weekly updates will encourage more people to get vaccinated.
According to the CDC website, these “preliminary burden estimates” include flu illnesses, medical visits, and hospitalizations. The CDC points out that these estimates rely on self-reporting and that actual flu prevalence is higher. According to data gathered from October 1, 2018 through January 12, 2019, there have been:
- 8.2 to 9.6 million symptomatic illnesses
- 3.9 to 4.6 million medical visits
- 95,000 to 114,000 hospitalizations
Compared to this time last year, vaccination rates have increased 6.8 percent in children and 6.4 percent in adults, but more than half of the US population remains unvaccinated this year.
These estimates come in the aftermath of the last year’s flu season, which was the country’s deadliest since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
A significant drop in flu vaccinations last year – it was the lowest recorded in seven years -- is considered a primary cause for the 2017- 2018 season’s severity.
People often opt out of the vaccine due to a belief that it is ineffective and unnecessary. Although health experts consistently discredit these claims, flu prevalence data often speaks for itself. Among the 183 children who died from the flu in the 2017-2018 season, 80 percent hadn’t received a flu vaccine.
“Unfortunately, the biggest driver for people getting vaccinated are the lessons they learn from personal experience,” says Matthew Zahn, who serves as the medical director for the Orange County Public Health Department’s epidemiological division. “And most people saw someone around them get seriously ill last flu season.”
It isn’t too late to make sure you and your loved ones are protected during the 2018-2019 flu season. Find a flu clinic near you by going to https://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/flu-finder-widget.html.