by Loren G. Edelstein | February 23, 2018
Flu activity is still elevated across the United States, according to the latest FluView report, provided weekly by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For the week ending Feb. 10, all U.S. states but Hawaii and Oregon continued to report widespread flu activity, and 43 states plus New York City, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico continued to report high incidents of influenza-like illness (ILI). Two states (North Dakota and Utah) experienced moderate ILI activity; three states experienced low ILI activity (Hawaii, Idaho and Washington); and two states experienced minimal ILI activity (Maine and Montana), per the CDC's latest report.

The CDC reported an additional 22 flu-related pediatric deaths during week 6 (Feb. 4-10), bringing the total number of flu-related pediatric deaths reported this season to 84. Among reported pediatric flu deaths this season, only 26 percent of children eligible for the flu vaccination had received one this season before they got sick.

Those who have not yet been vaccinated are strongly advised to do so. Flu viruses are likely to continue circulating for several more weeks, with an increasing proportion of influenza B and H1N1 viruses now being detected. Anyone age 6 months or older should still get vaccinated.

Medical authorities caution the public not be deterred by reports about the vaccine's effectiveness. While this season's vaccine is estimated to be 36 percent effective overall, that essentially means those who have been vaccinated are 36 percent less likely to need medical attention for flu-like illnesses.

Furthermore, the vaccine offers substantial protection against H1N1 flu and moderate protection against flu B viruses. The CDC also is reminding clinicians and the public about the importance of prompt treatment with antiviral medications, particularly for people who are severely ill and those who are at high risk of serious flu complications who develop symptoms.

Hate shots? Next year, FluMist nasal spray is likely to be an option again. Two years ago, the CDC's Advisory Committee of Immunization Practices pulled its recommendation for the FluMist vaccine after research found it wasn't sufficiently effective. But the vaccine's maker, AstraZeneca, has since made improvements to FluMist, and the new version appears to work better, based on a small study.

Given these new findings, the advisory group voted on Wednesday to recommend the nasal spray as an option for next winter's flu season. The ACIP recommendations will be forwarded to the director of the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for review and approval. FluMist is the only nasal spray vaccine on the market and has been approved for ages 2 through 49.