Did you know that as of March 26, 89 children have died from influenza this flu season?
That’s more children than have died in all but two seasons since the 2004-2005 influenza season, the first one for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention made influenza-associated pediatric deaths “nationally notifiable” — meaning states are required, not just requested, to report their numbers. The 2008-2009 season felled 147 children under 18, and the infamous “swine flu” H1N1 pandemic of 2009-2010 killed 276 children.
And while flu season typically winds down by April 1, according to CDC media spokesman Jeff Dimond, the latest weekly report from that federal agency notes that even as flu activity declined between March 20 and 26, influenza remained “widespread” in 10 states.
Perhaps if there weren’t so many wars to demand our attention, no tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, no economic woes here at home, we in the media would have more room in our minds and more words to devote to this year’s flu season. But that’s not been the case.
Not that I want us to work ourselves into a sensationalizing frenzy. But 89 children’s deaths? That, as Dimond puts it, “is a number that’s concerning. Any number is concerning.”
It’s concerning of course for the sheer loss of young life and the anguish of the families who have lost little ones. But our apparent indifference to that number could ultimately spell greater loss in future years: If we’re complacent about the flu – which Dimond calls “a vexing bug” – then we may neglect to immunize ourselves against it next season. And immunization remains our strongest weapon against influenza.