More than 100 children passed away during this past flu season due to complications from the disease, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced. The number is almost three times the amount that died during the previous flu season.
"That's a remarkable number," Michael Jhung, a medical officer in CDC, said to USA Today.
The new statistics were included in a FluView surveillance report published on the CDC's website.
Out of the 105 children whose deaths were tied to the flu, 90 percent did not have the flu vaccine. Though this year's flu vaccine only provided 58 percent protection from the worst strain for those 6 months to 17 years old, the CDC reminded people on its website that the flu vaccine still reduces chances that a person will get the seasonal flu and spread it to others. The agency currently recommends a flu vaccine for anyone over 6 months old as soon as it is available in their community. This year, about 52 percent of American kids received a flu shot.
In addition, 60 percent of the children who died this year from the flu were at high risk for flu complications because they were under the age of 2 or had a pre-existing medical condition.
"The really telling proportion is the flip side of that: 40 percent of these deaths were in kids who were healthy," Jhung said.
The government only counts flu deaths in children and hospitalization rates for people 65 and older. One hundred seventy seven patients out of every 100,000 hospitalized for flu-related illnesses were in that age group, 2.5 times higher than recent seasons, the Associated Press reported.
The number of children who die each year from the flu varies. For example, in the 2003 to 2004 season, 153 children passed away. During the H1N1 swine flu season of 2009 and 2010, 282 children died. However, the death toll has only been updated as of March 16 and it is possible more deaths may be reported, Jhung pointed out.
"Here we are in the 21st century, and this ancient scourge visits us every year and can still have such a profound effect on our children," William Schaffner, a professor at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, told USA Today.
Schaffner said these deaths remind the public that the flu isn't just a throat and chest problem and can involve the whole body. He explained that the vaccine makes it highly less likely that children will need to see the doctor for the flu.
"It's the best one we have," Schaffner said. "Every death prevented is worth it."
Jhung also added to NBCNews.com that those who have the flu should go to the doctor right way because antiviral flu medications Tamiflu and Relenza can make symptoms much less severe if they are properly given a day or two after getting sick.
"Antivirals do work," Jhung said to NBCNews.com.