Northeast struck by flu as virus sets tragic record for children around the country

As flu reaches high levels in New York and other parts of the Northeast, this season has set a tragic record for children.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 27 children in the United States have died of the flu so far this season. That’s the highest number of child flu deaths at this point in the season since the CDC started keeping records 17 years ago.

Flu struck early this season, starting in the Southeast, with Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi experiencing the highest level of flu activity by mid-November.

Now New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have reached that level, according to the latest CDC map.

Doctors there say they’re seeing unusually large numbers of flu patients for this time of year. NYU Langone Health, for example, had 270 flu patients, adults and children, in their emergency rooms and clinics in Manhattan and Brooklyn the week of December 29.

“This is usually what we see in February or March, not late December or early January,” said Dr. Jennifer Lighter, a pediatric infectious diseases physician at NYU Langone’s Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital.

“It’s been a bad season already,” added Dr. Adam Ratner, another NYU pediatric infectious disease physician.

Ratner noted that so far this season he has had patients who’ve developed life-threatening pneumonias and needed surgeries to drain abscesses in their chests — and most of these children were perfectly healthy before they got the flu...