Fifty-three children have died due to influenza so far, with pharmacies scrambling to keep up with demand for flu meds
A total of 14,676 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalisations have been reported across the United States between 1 October 2017 and 27 January 2018 .
And 53 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported for the 2017-2018 season so far.
Influenza A (H3N2), the dominant virus in the US, was also the dominant strain in the Australian season – and the reason why so many have been referring to it as “Australian flu”.
Australia experienced a record flu season last year, with more than 217,000 laboratory-confirmed cases of the flu in 2017 and a strong circulation of H3N2.
However research suggests the strain first emerged in or near Hong Kong back in 1968.
Influenza B actually circulated at high levels in the Australian 2017 season, contributing to the prolonged peak, with 62% laboratory confirmed notifications of influenza A and 37% of influenza B.
Meanwhile among US hospitalisations so far, 87.5% have been associated with influenza A virus, while 12% are linked to influenza B virus.
US experts say despite its severity, the current flu season has not reached “pandemic” proportions.
“This year is more on the severe end, but this is what you should expect from seasonal flu,” Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.
The current season may be of epidemic proportions, but it is certainly not a pandemic, he said.
Some areas of the country are also reportedly having a tough time getting flu-fighting medication.
A Brooklyn pharmacy manager told his local paper that the scarcity of Tamiflu – in particular children’s liquid Tamiflu – is not just limited to Brooklyn but has become a nationwide issue.
A second Brooklyn pharmacist stated the lack of access to children’s Tamiflu was a cause for concern.
“It’s been about two weeks that we haven’t been able to get it,” she said.
“Basically, it’s a concern for the children. We’re having a hard time locating a pharmacy that still has some in stock.”
“We are now seeing a shortage in the children’s liquid. It is in the generic,” said an owner and pharmacist from Oklahoma. “We can still get it in the brand name, but it’s more expensive.”
Spot shortages have also been reported across the country.
However a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official told the media there is no nationwide shortage, a statement confirmed by a spokesman for Genentech, which makes brand-name Tamiflu.