A year ago, the precautions so many Arizonans took against COVID-19 – staying indoors, avoiding large groups, and wearing masks – also helped protect against the flu. There were fewer flu cases in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Many Arizonans have returned to their pre-pandemic routines, and we expect flu cases to increase this year. With 269 cases of the flu reported in Arizona so far this season, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the CDC strongly encourage everyone six months and older to get a flu shot.
For children younger than age 5, the flu is more dangerous than the common cold, with complications that can include pneumonia, dehydration, difficulty breathing, and in rare cases death. In 2019, the CDC reported a record 199 children died from the flu in the US.
Influenza can affect people of all ages, but can be more severe in children. ve. Each year an average of 20,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 5 years old are hospitalized due to flu complications. Children who have asthma or other medical conditions such as diabetes or heart disease are also at higher risk of complications.
The best way to prevent the flu, in adults as well as children, is a flu vaccine. In 2019, only 22 percent of eligible children – those at least 6 months old – were vaccinated. Nearly half (44%) of flu-related fatalities were younger than 5.
In Arizona, 42% of cases over the past five years involve children 18 and younger, including 17% of cases younger than age 5.
Although flu vaccines are recommended as early as October, it’s not too late to get a vaccine. Over the past 5 years, the most flu cases have occurred from mid-December through February. More information about the flu, including a map to find a flu vaccine clinic near you, can be found on our Roll Up Your Sleeve webpage.