Influenza in the United States began earlier than usual last winter and racked up more cases than the previous three flu seasons --- but in the end was no more severe than a typical flu year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday.
In its first published post-mortem on the flu season, which ended in March, the CDC said 142 children and teenagers under the age of 18 are believed to have died of influenza-associated illnesses since the flu virus began circulating in early October.
It is not possible to compare that number to previous years, the agency said, because doctors are not required to report deaths of children from flu to health authorities.
The CDC now urges physicians to notify state health departments if they believe flu played a role in a child's death.
So far, 87 percent of the flu virus isolates analyzed by the CDC's influenza lab have been identified as influenza A/Fujian. The Fujian strain appeared in the United States in late spring 2003. At the time, health authorities decided not to add it to the 2003 influenza vaccine because preparing the Fujian component would have delayed the vaccine by at least two months.
Last month, the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration said that Fujian will be included in next year's vaccine.
Copyright 2004 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution