Strange flu season in U.S.: 'We have not seen that before'
It was a year much like the past few flu seasons, when the H3N2 virus was the most prevalent strain. That strain usually is hardest on the elderly and the very young.
But this flu season there was a slight twist - middle-aged people were more affected than children, said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"We are not done yet, there's still flu out there, but it is declining," she said. "This is the first week that influenza A and B are both going down."
The 2016-2017 season followed a typical course, Brammer said. "We had a large wave of influenza H3N2 and then we had a smaller wave of influenza B at the end - not an uncommon pattern," she said.
However, the really young seemed to be less affected than in a typical H3N2 year, Brammer said.
"The hospitalization rates for 50- to 64-year-olds was higher than infants to 4-year-olds. We haven't seen that before in an H3N2 year," she said.
In a typical flu season, flu complications - including pneumonia - send more than 200,000 Americans to the hospital. Death rates fluctuate annually, but have gone as high as 49,000 in a year, according to the CDC.
This season, 72 children have died from flu complications, the CDC said.
In a typical flu season, an estimated 100 U.S. children die of complications from the disease. ■