Between October and May, 172 children died from the flu, according to new numbers released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the deadliest single flu season for children since the government began keeping track of pediatric deaths in 2004, excluding pandemics.
Until now, the 2012-2013 flu season was the worst, killing 171 children under 18 years old, the CDC reported. Only the swine flu pandemic in 2009, when 358 children died, was deadlier than this year’s flu season.
The agency said 80 percent of the children killed by the flu were not vaccinated.
“These deaths are a somber reminder of the importance of flu vaccination and the potential seriousness of flu,” the agency said in a press release on its website.
An even number of girls and boys died in this year’s flu season, and about half had a medical condition that put them at higher risk of developing complications, CDC officials said.
A recent CDC study found that flu-related deaths in children between 2010 and 2016 occurred in otherwise healthy children, but that only 22 percent of those who died had been fully vaccinated. Agency officials said while the flu vaccine varies every year in its effectiveness, it can be “life-saving for children.”
In the CDC study, vaccines reduced flu-related deaths among children with high-risk medical conditions by 51 percent and among healthy children by 65 percent.
The flu-related death toll among children for this season could still increase because it’s possible more deaths could be reported, the agency said.
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